War & Peace - Volume I (unabridged)

Audio Sample

Leo Tolstoy

War & Peace - Volume I

Read by Neville Jason


The Neville Jason performance of Tolstoy’s War & Peace has been selected as a Top 12 Fiction title for Best Audiobooks Of 2007 by AudioFile Magazine. War and Peace is one of the greatest monuments in world literature. Set against the dramatic backdrop of the Napoleonic Wars, it examines the relationship between the individual and the relentless march of history. Here are the universal themes of love and hate, ambition and despair, youth and age, expressed with a swirling vitality which makes the book as accessible today as it was when it was first published in 1869. In addition it is, famously, one of the longest books in Western literature and therefore a remarkable challenge for any reader.

Audiofile – Earphones Award The Times – Audiobook of the Week Audie – Finalist Guardian – Choice of the Year
  • 25 CDs

    Running Time: 31 h 25 m

    Download PDF booklet

    More product details
    Digital ISBN:978-962-954-572-7
    Cat. no.:NAX43312
    Download size:442 MB
    Produced by:John Theocaris
    Edited by:Dan King, Peter Watts, Nigel Palmer, Will Reid Dick
    Translated by:Aylmer and Louise Maude
    Released:September 2006
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The Guardian Choice of the Year

If I’ve read the runes correctly, things are definitely looking up for audio purists (like me) who want their books unabridged. Sales of tamper-proof titles were up by 60% last year for adults and 50% for children which, let’s hope, will persuade publishers who produce only cut-down versions to think again.

From this you can guess that my talking book of the year is War and Peace on 51 CDs, in two impressively boxed volumes, adding up to 61 hrs 45 mins of listening time. Now that’s what I call an epic. Funny, last time I heard the whole thing on cassette it was three hours longer but that’s maybe because it was for blind students and the reader kept stopping to spell names like Bezukhov and Melyukovka. Tolstoy’s classic, set in Russia before, during and after Napoleon’s ill-fated invasion in 1812, rarely features in the best-ever novels charts but that’s only because, though everyone’s heard of it, not many people have actually read it. Here’s your chance. You may have seen a film version – the best is Sergei Bondarchuk’s incredible 1968 blockbuster which had half the Soviet army as extras and 35,000 costumes. But to get into the characters – the real characters of Field Marshal Kutuzov and Bonaparte’s inner circle of generals, not just the romantic leads – you need Tolstoy’s words. Take it to the gym, keep it in the car and let the salons of St Petersburg, the battle of Austerlitz and the vastness of the snow-covered steppes wash over you. Neville Jason’s voice, calm and understated, is the perfect vehicle for this cast of thousands. Give it to someone special for Christmas: trust me, it’s worth every penny.

Sue Arnold, The Guardian

Still wondering just what is the essence of War and Peace’s greatness after passing the halfway mark of Andrew Davies’s lavish TV miniseries? The only way to discover is to experience the dizzying vitality and range of the real thing, and unless you have both the leisure and the alertness to read its 1,000-plus pages, listening to it — as so many of Tolstoy’s first admirers did — is the answer.

Tempting as the several four-hour versions might seem, ignore them: as one producer explained to me, they have to cut out “all the history, politics, military tactics and moralising, most of the intimate thoughts and descriptions of the characters and several of the sub-plots”. Of the unabridged versions, the best is Neville Jason’s magnificent 62-hour marathon performance. No other word does justice to the inspired way he projects the personalities of the multitude of characters but also keeps the listener’s attention when delivering Tolstoy’s lengthy essays in the second half of the book.

You should not feel you need to listen to it continuously. As Tolstoy put it: “A man on a thousand-mile walk has to forget his goal and say to himself every morning, ‘Today I’m going to cover twenty-five miles and then rest up and sleep.’ ” Listening to it on a daily commute of an hour each way will take you painlessly through the entire book in a month. I’m listening in the car, and hearing a snatch of it every time I drive anywhere is making it compulsive listening: I even enjoy traffic jams.

Christina Hardyment, The Times

Set against the backdrop of Napoleon’s invasion of Russia, this unabridged War and Peace is a gargantuan recording accomplishment, particularly for Neville Jason, who reads every word Tolstoy wrote. From the opening in Anna Pavlovna’s pretentious drawing room, I fell under the spell of the gentle and seductive elegance of Jason’s voice. Tolstoy’s musings on the role of battle leaders and on the march of history are particularly pertinent listened to against the backdrop of our own history-shaping Iraq war. An unexpected highlight, brought out by the beautifully paced narration, was Tolstoy’s complex and inventive similes.

Rachel Redford, The Observer

Audiobook of the Week

This famously long Russian novel is, concede the audio producers, ‘a remarkable challenge for any reader’. Neville Jason’s performance is supple and relaxed in the sample five hours of the total 62 I’ve dipped into (contrary to this column’s usual practice, I haven’t listened to them all), and he makes the members of the Russian upper crust with their confusingly changeable names into identifiable characters, especially the women. The characters live out Tolstoy’s theories about history, philosophy, monarchy, the intellect and the will, with Pierre, the bastard son of a St Petersburg grandee, at their centre, as they become embroiled in Napoleon’s wars. At, say, two hours’ listening a day, the Bezukhovs, Rostovs, Bolkonskys et al could be part of your life for weeks – far less of a ‘challenge’ than actually reading the book.

Karen Robinson, The Sunday Times

Winner of AudioFile Earphones Award

This reviewer derives a special pleasure listening to a good book that he’s already read delivered by an excellent narrator. He can thus better appreciate values the performer extrapolates from the text. Such is the case with Neville Jason’s mature rendering of Tolstoy’s massive classic – 25 CDs to Volume 1 alone – of the Napoleonic Wars in Russia. His efforts are abetted by an excellent, uncredited translation. Once you get used to Russians with British accents, he gives you a fresh and consistently insightful interpretation of the action, atmospheres, numberless characters, and author’s apostrophes. Only his very young women ring a bit false. An accompanying booklet, intended to help the listener keep characters and events straight, is unnecessary, thanks to Jason’s skill.

Y.R., Audiofile

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