At the back of your mind you cannot help thinking that Tolstoy was awarded the Stalin prize for this book. Having read some Russian civil war history what does start to appear to be a style that would endorse this to Stalin is the portrayal of the Whites.
The Reds are portrayed as the victims of a class-ridden country that has no tolerance of those that have sacrificed blood and life in the trenches against the Germans. There is a moment when Roshchin returns to Rostov after the White’s have recaptured the city and it has returned to a pleasure palace for the wealthy with the poor being made to sweep the streets.
But aside from that criticism there is a real sense of the confusion that must have reigned with the different groups fighting for the soul of Russia. Dasha moves from being the wife of a Red officer to a helper of the White’s, even being considered at one point as a potential assassin of Lenin, as well as being a friend to the anarchists.
Meanwhile Roshchin is also feeling similar confusion and wonders quite what cause he is fighting for. Particularly after a fellow White tries to kill him by shooting him in the back of the head. That same sense of it being everyman for himself is evident on the Reds side with Telegin being sent on a mission to get orders to shoot the top commander who has named the crime of being too popular.
There is madness in the air and the way that Tolstoy weaves his characters through it is clever with one memorable moment where Telegin in disguise and Roshchin share the same bench in Rostov train station.