War and Peace charts the history of the French invasion of Russia, and the impact of the Napoleonic era on Tsarist society, through the stories of five Russian aristocratic families. War and Peace is well known as being one of the longest novels ever written. Newsweek in 2009 ranked it first in its Top 100 Books. In 2007, Time magazine ranked War and Peace third in its poll of the 10 greatest books of all time. It is regarded as one of the central works of world literature. According to the Encyclopædia Britannica, "no single English novel attains the universality of Leo Tolstoy's War and Peace."
Tolstoy was instrumental in bringing a new kind of consciousness to the novel. His narrative structure is noted for its "god-like" ability to hover over and within events, but also in the way it swiftly and seamlessly portrayed a particular character's point of view. His use of visual detail is often cinematic in scope, using the literary equivalents of panning, wide shots and close-ups. These devices are part of the new style of the novel that arose in the mid-19th century and of which Tolstoy proved himself a master.