1.25.2011

War and Peace part 2


I must admit that War and Peace is not coming along as fast as I had hoped.
Part of this is due to the surprise remodeling event of our kitchen and dining room (which is going to take a really long time to fix, I have now accepted). But more of it is because I lost the book under the couch for awhile. It happens. Especially around here. A lot.
Anyway, I found it and I just have to say: (*spoiler alert, if you are not already past page 300) Pierre! Seriously? I mean, come on. You had to know that it was a really bad idea to marry a girl who you didn't even really propose to, who you knew was as dumb as a doornail, who you also kind of knew was getting it on with her brother. I thought it was funny when Pierre did the bear thing with the policeman, but now I am seriously wondering about this guy.
Prince Andrey: will you reconcile with your wife with her fuzzy lip?! Right now he is rushing into the house as she is in the throes of childbirth. I have a bad feeling about what is probably about to happen. But way to go Princess Marya, to not agree to marry the creepy brother. You could teach Pierre a thing or two (perhaps I have that to look forward to in the next 1000 pages? hopefully!). ...
Is anyone out there still reading? And what are you thinking?

13 comments:

melissa said...

Lynne: As I've already told you. After reading 200 pages, I've had to abandon the project. I found I was reading by duty, and abandoning many other good things while doing so. I think I shall pick it up and finish it in about five years...

lynne said...

No worries, Melissa! Maybe one day you can revisit it, or not. :) In the meantime you can just enjoy the Hedgehog family's version. It will be almost as edifying.

allydru said...

unfortunately we have pretty much the worst library system in the world here (which, while I'm willing to sacrifice it for mountains, still causes me huge pangs of sadness), and I have yet to even get hold of the darn thing. but I'm working on it.

in the meantime, I'm really burning through my Extreme Suduko book while I nurse. ahhh, for complete wastes of brain power.

katemakes said...

when my husband committed himself to getting through W&P he bought a used paperback. after he finished a 150 pages or so he would tear off the section and put it in the recycling. that is one big dense book!

lynne said...

I love that idea - tearing it apart as you get further! It would be awesome to watch it get smaller.

An Art Nest said...

I got as far as checking it out from the library, hauling it around for a good week and a half and then returning the darn thing.

small steps.

twirlingbetty said...

Well, I'm still reading it and I'm LOVING it. I have no idea what page I'm up to as my Kobo has some weird page thing going on but I can tell you I am 42% of the way through! I'm a bit further on than you I think Lynne so I won't say too much as I don't want to accidentally give away anything but have to agree: Pierre behaves strangely, I think he's ultimately a weak man...but we'll see. And I'm glad Princess Mary didn't marry Helene's brother. Creep-oir!
I've been enjoying the war bits a bit more than I was. I find it fascinating but incomprehensible the pyschological state in which the soldiers go into their battles. At one point, someone (Prince Andrew - I can't recall) describes the faces of the men under him just about to go into battle as knowing what was just about to happen would be "dreadful but enjoyable".
And as for Rostov's childlike, obsessive love for the Emperor...well, ummmmm, curious. But a delight to read about. Have you reached the Freemasons bit yet?
I've just read a bit that describes a moonlit dash through the snow by horse-drawn carriage complete with jingling bells and it totally carried me away. I do loves me a description of a sparkling, moonlit, snowy meadow!
Finally, one of the characters - a grand judge - is given the name Tolstoy! I wondered whether that was because Tolstoy regarded himself as an arbiter of society and his portrayal of a shallow and vain elite Russian society in the novel was his own moral judgment put to paper?

lynne said...

oh, i think you are right about that judge! i noticed that character and his name, but didn't pause to really think about that. good observation. in the war parts that i've read so far, i just am still astounded, like you said, about the sense of elation that tolstoy writes about as the men go into battle with. i was wondering if that is Tolstoy romanticizing it, or if really soldiers become intoxicated by the idea of being a hero enough to overcome complete and total terror at the horror of what could potentially happen to them? It made me think about other war scenes I've read, like, for instance, those described in Charles Frazier's Cold Mountain. He describes the fighting that went on in the American Civil War as so horrible and de-humanizing -- that was fighting that only occurred about 50 years after the Napoleonic wars, I think, so not too much had changed in terms of the kind of warfare they were doing, right? or was it more civilized in Europe? Certainly the way that Napoleon ordered the prisoners to be treated seemed quite humane (again, versus some of what I've read about how prisoners taken during the Civil War were treated). Anyway, maybe I'll look that up a little.
-Rostov is an interesting character. He's so naive and easily influenced, often by seedy folks (he just finally has realized how awful Dolohov is). I'm curious to see how he continues to grow.
-what do you think about Prince Andre?
-Pierre - I just finished the Freemasonry induction. I like that Pierre finally seems to feel motivated by something bigger than himself. Where will it take him, I wonder? And I LOVED the scene where he ordered Prince Vassily to get out. That guy is so gross!

lynne said...

And Christen, I also really am loving it, too! Surprisingly the pace is great, I think. Because it's so long, I like how Tolstoy can really get into the minds of this huge cast of characters. It reminds me of knitting a gigantic blanket. The work is slow but very, very satisfying as you look in all of those nooks and crannies! :)

twirlingbetty said...

Oh, I LOVE your metaphor of the knitted blanket. Spot on. Like you, I love the vastness (is that a word?) of the story and the fact it is encompasses so many generations in such depth.
That's fascinating about the difference in descriptions between this and Cold Mountain. I have to think that Tolstoy must have been romanticising the military in general. Or, perhaps is only portraying psychotic characters!?! Is there, I wonder, some deeper cultural thread that made the Russian experience different I wonder? I might look into whether Tolstoy himself ever saw action - of the military kind, I mean!
I have to admit that I have loved Prince Andrew (is he Andre in your version - interesting) from the start. I know he treated downy lip with contempt and that was totally wrong but there was something attractive about his personality from the beginning - a strength. I feel sad, though, that his war experience weakened him so much. As it would any vaguely emotionally intelligent person. I'm fascinated to see what is in store for him in the next little bit. I won't say anything so I don't spoil it for you but he has some interesting stuff coming up. And if you thought his Dad was an old coot before....well, let's just say, poor long-suffering Princess Mary!
I must say I'm not in love with the way Tolstoy portrays women. They're either ridiculously shallow and vain (Helene), childlike and narcissistic (Natasha), silent martyrs (Mary), conniving and scheming (Anna Mikhaylovna)...are there any strong, female characters? On that mysoginistic note, I wonder whether Tolstoy was a Freemason himself - an order that still excludes women and sees men as the keepers of the secrets of humanity!
I'd love to hear what you think of Natasha after you get a bit further along. She has potential...

Sophie said...

Tolstoy - having served in the army himself -was perhaps one of the most prominent religious pacifists of the century inspiring for instance Gandhi (cf. his Letter to a Hindu). His pacifism came form what he saw as straightforward reading of the teachings of Jesus. My favourite anecdote of T. records him once lecturing on the need to be nonresistant and nonviolent towards all creatures. Someone in the audience responded by asking what should be done if one was attacked in the woods by a big tiger. He responded, "Do the best you can. It doesn't happen very often." Although he is romanticizing the war during some episodes I think the overall picture is more nuanced. At one point he calls war the ‘favourite pastime of the idle and the frivolous’.

I agree, the women in War and Peace are difficult to tolerate, for a strong, angry woman you’d have to open Anna. In this novel women inhabit only the domestic sphere and it is there that they get to have an opinion and little plots, if any. Your knitted blanket metaphor Lynne reminds me of Prince Andrei’s preference for knitting nurses and of course later Natasha obediently learns how to knit (and quite astutely so: “her needles clicked lightly in her slender, fast moving hands...”). The things you do for love...

lynne said...

Sophie - thank you for that insight on Tolstoy's opinion about war. Very interesting. I love that tiger anecdote. Having now read to the half-way mark I think I am now beginning to see that coming through in the war chapters.

I have to say that I am not bothered by the women inhabiting only the domestic sphere in the book, because the men in the war environments seem silly (I just read a passage about idleness and sloth, and how the military was the perfect place for men to indulge); as well as the men in the political spheres with all of their jostling for position and shallow arrogance. I feel like all of the genuine character development, and real action, I've read so far has taken place either in the homes, or in nature. And the one that to me seems the most vibrating with life, spirit, and energy is Natasha (although she's far from perfect - which makes her all the more interesting). It's interesting to me how Natasha and Ellen are compared through Pierre's eyes.

I think what is really motivating me to continue picking up this massive book is how nuanced the characters all are: all of them are made up of nobleness, ridiculousness, goodness, darkness, ambition... so real.

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