Tolstoy’s ‘War and Peace’ Made Simple

Don’t let the length deter you. You can sum up the theme of the novel in five words: Free will is an illusion.

Reading War and Peace is like walking into a large cocktail party at which you don’t know anybody until, hours later, Napoleon turns up fresh from his victory in the Battle of Austerlitz. How do you get your bearings on a novel that has more than 500 characters and, even in the relatively compact Modern Library edition, 1,386 pages?