For anyone who has stumbled in here today and is wondering what on earth is going on, you have arrived at Team Tolstoy's monthly sojourn in their year-long shared read of War and Peace. It's never too late to start, even if we're now on page five hundred and something, but you'll find our previous posts starting back on Tolstoy's birthday September 9th last year via that link, and we stop by here on the 9th of each month for a discussion ...and if you're really interested, you'll find the shared read from the year before, Team Ulysses, here.
I hope you don't mind but the troika horses were getting a bit unruly so I've brought these two in to do the steering. Would you just look at them wrapped up warm in the pelts of ... er synthetic animals I'm sure (do you remember the smell of Afghan coats? ) and just check out the Uggs and the slurping from saucers as we settle down for our chinwag around the samovar again, it soon comes round, but what an odd War & Peace month I've had.
I'm not sure I ever get this quite right. Do I pick up and start it the minute the troika slides off again, reading a bit each day, or do I read as a big chunk later in the month? I kept putting it off and procrastinating and delaying and reading other things until eventually I got there on Saturday and then if I'm honest I was a teeny bit wearied by the first half of this month's section, I'm not sure I could manage too many pages of Pierre's Freemasonry dilemma in a row... I was having a bit of a yawn in fact, nearly but not quite tempted to skim whilst I'll bet others may have loved those parts.
I'm still not sure where I stand on Pierre, is he really
'a great gentleman, the rather blind and absurd husband of a distinguished wife, a clever crank who did nothing but harmed nobody and was a first-rate, good-natured fellow.'
Am I to remain patient with this for as long as it takes...
'the complex and difficult process of internal development was taking place all this time in Pierre's soul, revealing much to him and causing him many spiritual doubts and joys.'
Would you lovers of Pierre out there please jump to his defence because I'm beginning to think he doth protest his dilemma a little too much even though I do feel sorry for him, plagued by his conscience and back with the rather shadowy Helene who is
'hardened by a varnish left by the thousands of looks that had scanned her person...'
Meanwhile things are certainly looking up for my previously rather wearied and early opinion of Natasha,
I'm loving Natasha's nightly forays into her mother's bedroom to talk about life and love...
'These visits of Natasha's at night before the count returned from his club were one of the greatest pleasures of both mother and daughter..'
And then good old Tolstoy delivered what for me was one of the best sections of the book so far... the ball and the Rostov family preparations. The countess in her claret-coloured velvet, the girls in their white gauze dresses over pink slips, roses on their bodices and hair dressed a la greque. Natasha's fussing over everyone else at her own expense, the long suffering maids following her around the room trying to stitch the hem of her dress as she flapped over everyone else and then her first dance with Andrei.
Andrei now emerging from his grief at the death of Lise and 'revived and rejuvenated' as the 'wine' of Natasha's charm rises to his head
'There's something fresh, original, un-Petersburg-like about her that distinguishes her.'
I have also noticed that Tolstoy interprets many of Natasha's emotions via her facial expressions as he tells us her smile suggests something, or her face demonstrates how she might be feeling, rather than putting words into her mouth that she may be too immature to express perhaps?
Funny moment of the month, and there always is one with Tolstoy, has to be Vera and Berg's first social evening in their immaculate new home...
'Berg smiled with a sense of his superiority over a weak woman...who could not understand all that constitutes a man's dignity...Vera at the same time smiling with a sense of superiority over her good, conscientious husband, who all the same understood life wrongly, as according to Vera all men did.'
And poor Maria (doesn't she look fed up poor love) continues to suffer the slings and arrows of her father's ageing outlook on life. The Count seems almost Lear-like in his unreasonable remonstrations, whilst the saintly Maria carries the burden on her shoulders and contemplates that it might be preferable to don the coarse smock, the bast shoes, a rough coat and a black kerchief and head off on a pilgrimage, but until the time is right she tolerates it all.
So as life looks up for Andrei, things seem to be getting gloomier for Pierre, as Andrei advances so Pierre retreats, where will it all head next, we must be due another war any day but meanwhile I can't wait to hear your thoughts.
For those reading to schedule, next month :: Part IV Chapters 1 - 13, Part V Chapters 1 - 22 which takes us to the end of Volume 2.