Wednesday 11 December 2019

Reading War And Peace among Britons' greatest literary lies

Lily James and James Norton star in the BBC One adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's novel War And Peace
Lily James and James Norton star in the BBC One adaptation of Leo Tolstoy's novel War And Peace

You might expect hefty Russian tome War And Peace to be the book that Britons are most likely to have lied about reading.

But children's favourite Alice's Adventures In Wonderland by Lewis Carroll is responsible for the most literary fibs, according to a BBC survey.

Those who have struggled to make any headway into Leo Tolstoy's classic, currently taking centre stage in the Sunday night TV schedule, can take heart that it is still responsible for plenty of deceit, coming fourth on the list of books that we lie to our friends about having read.

George Orwell's 1984 and JRR Tolkien's Lord Of The Rings trilogy came second and third respectively, while Tolstoy made another appearance at number five with Anna Karenina.

A study of the reading habits of 2,000 Britons commissioned by the BBC Store found that one in four bluffed about reading a classic when a TV adaptation of it was shown, with the most popular reasons being not wanting to miss out on the conversation and wanting to appear more intelligent.

There is a clear reason why one in three admitted they would not correct someone if they wrongly assumed they were better read than in reality - 60% of those surveyed said being well-read made a person appear more attractive.

And there is good news for booksellers who might fear losing their customers to the TV screen.

The survey found that film and television adaptations actually encourage viewers to pick up the original text, with 44% saying they would be tempted to pick up a book if it had been deemed worthy of an all-star dramatisation.

The final episode of War And Peace airs on BBC One on Sunday February 7 at 9pm.

:: War And Peace and other period adaptations are available to download at

PA Media

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