ITT: novels that start out weak but become 10/10 once the characters are fleshed out
It's continually extraordinary, that what's so amazing about it. Tolstoy never stops describing some of the most real emotions in perfect detail. One section that focuses on a character for 20 pages contains more than most books, and there are dozens of those sections.
Under the Volcano
the first chapter (50 pages) is a huge slog to many first time readers, but it is essential to setting up the later chapters, where you're rewarded with beautiful prose