I avoided posting about this last night because it was just a few pages until the end and it seemed like a better idea to hold it over until tonight.
Two reactions spring to mind after the conclusion of 680 pages of small type and thin margins. Firstly, there are two great love stories here that are concluded neatly at the end. But secondly, there is a political message that towards the end sadly overshadows the human story.
The blatant rewriting of history with Stalin taking the role of Trotsky running the Red Army and repelling the Whites really spoilt the ending. Anyone with a modicum of historical knowledge would know that the Red Army was galvanised by Trotsky and his War Communism changed the direction of the war.
Instead Stalin is deposited in his place and you then start to wonder which generals being referred to in the story are actually real or have been replaced with current political favourites. In one sense you could argue that this is fiction so what does it matter. But because Tolstoy has aped War & Peace and introduced stages of the story with big chunks of historical explanation if those facts are wrong then it does undermine the experience for the reader. In some senses it is a breach of trust.
But there is a voice in the back of your head which tells you that the most important sentence in the book is the very last one: June 22, 1944.
Until June 1944 Russia stood alone against the Germans in terms of fighting on the same continent and it was only after D-Day that the allies took the pressure of with a legitimate Western front. This is a clarion call for people to take the sufferings of war, remember what cause it is all in aid of and to remember what a glorious leader Stalin is. If he did it once before (debatable) he will do it again.
A review will follow soon…