I just finished this about ten minutes ago, so my impressions are rather unformed. I can, however, say this. It is brilliant, brilliant, brilliant. Really, I hear you cry, so a historic work of world literature is worth reading in your opinion? Stop the press.
I know, I know. Still - I was expecting something much more stodgy. This is Jane Austen for men, with extra testosterone and a full beard. And his characterisations! Every one a masterpiece, even if only a few lines are spoken, they seem to breathe all by themselves. And there are a lot of characters. At first I thought I was going to lose track of all the princesses and countesses, but each one is so finely drawn that they are unmistakable.
Perhaps things change over the course of the succeeding books, but here the main concern is people and their domestic lives, and how Tolstoy lays their inner lives bare - not by telling you what they are thinking - but by directing you to look at their body language and microscopic facial tics.
So: I look forward to part two.
Next: Haven't decided.