Tolstoy's War and Peace to be adapted by Andrew Davies

18/02/2013 by Katie Allen

"Dazzling" adaptation of literary classic heads to BBC

Leo Tolstoy's 1,400-page novel War and Peace is to be adapted for TV by Andrew Davies, the award-winning writer known for 'sexing up' literary classics for the screen.

BBC1 will broadcast the adaptation over six hour-long episodes in 2015, with the producers promising a "sweeping story of life and love during a time of conflict".

The Russian epic, first published in its entirety in 1869, is during Napoleon's conquest of western Europe, with the fates of five aristocratic Russian families caught up in the conflict.

Davies said: "Not just a great novel it’s a wonderful read and it’ll make a wonderful serial. A thrilling, funny and heartbreaking story of love, war and family life. The characters are so natural and human and easy to identify with." He added that Natasha Rostova, the lovelorn countess played by Audrey Hepburn in the 1950s film version, "just beats Lizzy Bennet as the most lovable heroine in literature".

Faith Penhale, executive producer and head of drama, BBC Wales, said: “Andrew Davies is the master of the classic adaptation and it’s thrilling to be able to bring War And Peace, with its rich cast of characters and epic drama, to BBC1.

"Today’s audience will be drawn into the sweeping story of life and love during a time of conflict, with a dazzling production that brings to life the great vision and scale of the novel," she said.

Clocking in at 1,440 pages, War and Peace remains on many people's "unread" or "unfinished" books lists. However it is not the longest, with Marcel Proust's seven-volume In Search of Lost Time tipping the scale at 4,200 pages.

Poll: Have you ever read War and Peace?

Painting: Portrait of Mrs Harrison Gray Otis by Gilbert Stuart, 1809


Library Cat's picture

War and Peace

The old 19 part BBC adaptation of War and Peace has stayed with me since I watched it as a teenager. Anthony Hopkins performance as Pierre was superb and made me a lifelong fan.

About halfway through the series, I got the book from the school library and began reading, and eventually finished it about the same time as the series ended. I loved both and have never forgotten them. I was thrilled a year ago when I finally managed to obtain a boxed set and to watch it again.

Andrew Davies has done a wonderful job of adapting many classic novels, but what will worry me is whether anyone in the modern television world will allow the space for the novel to develop on the screen as they did back in the 1970s. An overly condensed version would be sadly disappointing. Six episodes hardly seems enough.

A pity if the BBC can't learn from the success of the Killing etc - people are still willing to invest the time to sit through a story that takes 20 episodes to unfold.

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