'Kindle in all hearts the flame of virtue...' says the Grand Master to Pierre as he initiates him into the mysteries of the Masonic Lodge and I know we're a day early with Team Tolstoy but I thought we might as well have a sleepover and make a two day W&P weekend of it. According to my Kindlestats we are now 34% of the way there on our War & Peace travels and that's the news this month... that I have read this entire section on my new contraption ( as far as p446 in the real thing.)
The Tinker has bought a Kindle too, being a confirmed lover of the e reader and hating to be left behind on the technology front at the age of almost eighty-six, so we've both been in the Kindlegarten (did you see what I did there? I can't take the credit, Bookhound's invention) figuring out the details and I'm almost ready to move into the juniors now that I've got the hang of mine and have bonded with it completely.
This buying books from the sofa is way too easy but having bought an unabridged, complete and entire version of W&P for 74p I wasn't quite sure what might arrive into the machine. Thirty seconds later there it was and I was delighted to discover it is the Maude's translation, so it's almost 'as you were' for me. I say almost because it's a little light on the French so I have been referring back to the tome every so often to check, but I have generally been galloping along with the thing, light as a feather propped up on a cushion and hands free but for the occasional twitch of the page-turning thumb. I'm also delighted with the notes and highlighting facility which creates a virtual underline and then gathers all those extracts on a separate page making it very easy to recap the main events, whilst a quick click takes me to the page in the book and the original context.
And what a fabulously action-packed instalment this month's has proved to be, I think for me the best so far, really enjoyable reading and I hardly know where to start because there was so much to take in. I am starting to feel a real sense of immersion in the book, and that slow development of the characters is really taking hold. Natasha's going up in my estimation, Marya remains a favourite and I love the old Prince Nikolai Bolkonsky more each time I meet him. I almost feel this long run of the drawing-room battles will shore me up for the next big push on the battlefield.
I have also spent the last few days writing and honing a commissioned 2000 word book and work-related piece for the next edition of The Reader magazine (and trying not to cry when I discovered that the first 1000 words done before Christmas seemed to have been digested in the bowels of the computer never to return) so please forgive me if I seem a little words-and-ideas-depleted and resort to bullet points this month; it's 9.30pm on Friday night and I'm sure you will all make up for my limited insight with your reflections and observations in comments.
I think the moments that have left the deepest impression on me are as follows...
- The spectacular hero's welcome for the defeated Prince Bagration in the interests of salvaged pride, but which all had me wondering quite how far the Russians would have pushed the boat out if they had been victorious.
- The sad death of the Princess Lisa in childbirth and Andre's unexpected arrival as she was in labour when we had almost been led to believe he was dead (but knew he wasn't really) And then the incredibly emotional reunion with his father almost reduced me to tears
'He was standing close to the door and as soon as it opened his rough old arms closed like a vise around his son's neck, and without a word he began to sob like a child.'
- The cuckolding of Pierre and the speedy breakdown of his marriage to Helene, giving us no chance to know them as a couple, and the ensuing duel with Dolokhov. Who ever would have thought the myopic Pierre would hit the target.
- The baptism of Andre and Lisa's baby and that moment when Andre, sitting in another room, 'faint with fear' lest the baby may drown in the font. I recall reading about this somewhere, the total immersion of the babies at Russian baptism and the parents not being present, or did I dream that? But I felt good early signs that Andre had bonded with his son.
- Now was that Mazurka jolly or was it jolly, I loved it as Denisov whisked Natasha around the room.
- I am very intrigued about Pierre's personal epiphany, the 'conversion' and admission to the Masonic Brotherhood and its subsequent philanthropic influence on those around him, namely the serfs who he thinks are getting a better deal but actually are not, and then Andre, who inwardly begins a new life as a result of talking with Pierre.
And now I have my usual questions...
- What is a sterlet, a gigantic one presented as a second course and at the sight of which Ilya Rostov blushed with self-conscious pleasure?
OK I've come back and bothered to look this up, it's a sturgeon so perhaps caviar on the menu?
- So what about Freemasonry? I know so little about it beyond the aprons and the secret handshake and the fact that membership often guarantees rapid and upwardly mobile progress in the job market as Masonic loyalty prevails ...but is all that a myth?
- How influential was all this in 19th century Russia?
- Did Tolstoy belong to the Brotherhood?
- Or did he disapprove?
So I hope that offers a few prompts if like me you'd forgotten quite how much has happened and I'm sure there is a great deal I have missed....over to you.
Next month's schedule :: Part Three (Chs 1-26) which takes me to p521 in my edition and probably a few % further along on the Kindle.