War and Peace part 1

(awesome photoshopping courtesy of Melissa)

How is your reading coming along, small faithful group of War and Peace readers? I have to say that I am (unexpectedly) thoroughly entertained so far. I only just finished part one, and my observation is that Tolstoy is a master of describing social awkwardness. As one who is prone to be occasionally socially awkward myself, I find these passages not only instructive but also funny.
Also, don't you love (SPOILER ALERT) how Pierre tied a bear to the back of a police officer and threw him in the river?! What's up with that? That seems like really an excessive degree of drunken revelry going on there. Good thing he's a count now, hopefully that will sober him up a little bit to his duties as a responsible citizen. I love Pierre.
Thoughts? Feelings? Criticism?


twirlingbetty said...

I am thoroughly entertained too! In fact,so entertained (and also keen to actually be finished all thousand pages by end of Jan) that I've been taping my e-reader to my treadmill! It makes time fly I tell ya!
I'm not sure if I like Pierre or not yet. I really like Prince Andrew's father,Prince Bolkonski. His character is fascinating. And I agree, Tolstoy's descriptions are brilliant and so spot on. Funny to think social aptitude (or otherwise) remains basically unchanged all this time after the novel was written ie, we can still relate so closely to his portrayals.
That unlicked bear pic is HILARIOUS. I wonder whether the bear symbolises something? Russia herself perhaps? Is his ridicule of the bear and the policeman a metaphor for his disdain of Russia's readiness to enter the war? That the county and her military are too tightly bound. Were they? I can't remember much from Russian history. Given it's the policeman that floats, I wonder if that's a clue to the outcome?
Hmmmm, might investigate some of that.
I also love the way Tolstoy describes small actions (like a kind of smile, or a twitch or a sigh) so simply but in a way that conveys so much meaning.
Loving it.

lynne said...

Christen, your comments are so thoughtful. I love that idea about the tied-up bear being a metaphor for Russia! I too need to do more research on Russian history - I feel like I know so little about it.
I totally agree that Prince Bolkonski's father is fascinating. On the one hand, I love his industry and philosophy of hard work, eschewing the social frivolity that consumes others of his same social class. The picture of a gentleman in his library making things on his lathe kind of makes me smile. But then on the other hand how he terrorizes his daughter with the geometry lessons is kind of unpleasant, even though he is doing it out of a desire to better her. And his rigidity to his routines would get somewhat tiresome. I'm interested to read how Lise grows in such an environment. Will she become less superficial, or will she be consumed by terror of the father? What do you think about the daughter? I love how Tolstoy describes her beautiful eyes.
OK, off to try and read a chapter or two before my baby wakes up!

twirlingbetty said...

Yes, I totally agree, Prince Bolkonski (Snr) is likeable yet disagreeable at the same time. The way he treats his daughter is awful but she's so vacuous that I almost can't blame him! I wondered, when she had that chat with her brother Andrew before he went to war and he tried to pry out of her whether their father was getting "worse" in old age, whether her reaction ie, how can you even imply disrespect to dear old Dad, was born of fear or a complete lack of self-awareness or both. Prince Andrew Jnr has clearly inherited his intolerance of shallow women from his father - I feel sorry for Lise, though. She's kind of unashamedly ensconsed in that social milieu and seems so charming that I don't feel irritated by her. And that scene between her and her husband and Pierre, when she tried to get Andrew to open up about whay he'd changed etc, was harrowing.
Have you noticed how much Tolstoy focuses on the description of Lise's lips?
Yes, it will be interesting to see how Lise progresses during her "confinement"! I have a feeling she might show some unexpected strength later on if Prince Bolkonski (Snr) has to abide by his son's wishes to keep the child there.
I must say all the military stuff is leaving me a bit cold...but given the title...I think I had better get used to it!

lynne said...

Yes, I have been a little preoccupied when I read parts with Lise about the constant description of her fuzzy upper lip and the way it looks when its up, and down! It makes me imagine that she looks like a pretty squirrel.
It also makes me angry how Prince Andre places all of the blame for his unfulfilling marital relationship on his wife and arrogantly fails to participate in any way with her. That jerk! But he is sweet to his sister. One redeeming quality -
Also, I agree about the boring war parts. Yawn. I keep waiting for Tolstoy to flip back to what's happening at the home scene. Hopefully soon.

Jacinta said...

I am not reading anyone's comments yet as I haven't even started reading it! I thought I owned the book but it turned out to be Crime & Punishment. Not to worry as my MIL has a copy and I still haven't traveled the measly 10mins to get it. :(
I still have 3 weeks left of January!! :P
xo MODELmumma

lynne said...

go jacinta go! I can't wait to hear what you think!

Sophie said...

I’m not a fan of Pierre’s. But I adore Count Rostov with his offhand charm and foolhardy generosity. Apparently he was based on Tolstoy’s two grandfathers whose portraits hung on the wall of his study when he wrote the novel. Not sure what to make of the bear story, though. Perhaps it was a just a common prank among young people in that time. It is a funny passage though and only second to John Irving’s infamous unwanted bear intimacy in the Hotel New Hampshire. I found another bear reference and got inspired by Melissa’s terrific photoshopping..., http://roubidou.squarespace.com/

melissa said...

Yes I just received my copy in the mail as well and have, so far, read 18 pages. I'm not sure if I will finish it by the end of January. Perhaps by the end of February!

Barbara Brown said...

I didn't think I cared about reading this book but after reading the comments I really want to read the it. I am reserving on at the library right now and will start reading asap.

Laura said...

My husband and I are going to take this on. He'll read it in Russian (his native language) and I in English. I am looking forward to discussing our different perspectives. I need to go get my copy and I just cannot believe that my local library doesn't have it on it's shelf!