Welcome one, welcome all, to the fourth of my weekly progress reports for War and Peace. You may have seen my previous weekly post summarising my week 3 progress, if not please do pop on over to it to see how it went. And for those who have no idea what I’m going on about at all, you may want to head on over to the blog of the War and Peace Newbies Read-along host Laura from Reading In Bed.
Every week I’m doing a short progress post or wrap-up of my thoughts so far on the book, all very low key, probably in the form of bullet points, and likely not always coherent. So don’t expect eloquence or a comprehensive guide to the novel is what I’m trying to say – at best, my approach is scatter-gun and what catches my eye probably isn’t the most important detail in the text. Expectations lowered accordingly? Ok, then let’s see how Week 4 went, which covered Volume II, Parts I and II of War and Peace…
- After a few days’ break from War and Peace so that I could properly take part in the 24in48 readathon, I’m picking it back up with pleasant surprise at the realisation that we’re not in a ‘war bit’ at the moment, at least not in the opening chapter – yay!
- Ok Natasha has just casually said that to prove her love for Sonya she held a heated ruler to her arm like they used to when they were kids to prove their love… um… what kind of strange sadist practice is this? And Nikolay just nods and goes along with it like it’s the most normal thing ever, duuuude.
- Apparently we’re not being subtle now about the fact that Sonya is in love with Nikolay but he seems to have precisely zero interest in her when there’s the prospect of manly gatherings and clubs and a certain someone (I presume prostitute?) he pops off to see of an evening. Aaaah the high life of a young man in Moscow, lovely and charming.
- Pierre is so out of his depth with society and having a wife and it’s funny as hell but also kind of sad. Poor Pierre, he didn’t ask for a potentially adulterous wife having it off with a well-known cad when he innocently stared at her boobs. This is what you get for being a wealthy count, Pierre, are you happy now?
- Ok that escalated quickly. Pierre challenged Dolokhov because… reasons/rumours. Now it seems that they’re having a duel. (Anyone else humming Ten Duel Commandments from Hamilton throughout this section? No? No takers?)
- Full disclosure: I hummed Ten Duel Commandments throughout the entirety of the duel section. These things never end well, why do people insist on having them? Sigh.
- Oh apparently the duel was just a device in which Tolstoy could injure him to show that maybe Dolokhov isn’t a complete dick and that you, dear reader, should feel bad for judging him because it turns out he’s just a boy who lives at home with his mother and loves her very much. Nope, sorry, still don’t care, still kind of hate you. (But in an enjoyable way.)
- Meanwhile Pierre is thinking maybe the duel was a dumb idea, no shit Sherlock. He’s also self-pitying and thinking maybe this whole marriage thing to the girl with the great boobs wasn’t the greatest of ideas – and I repeat, no shit Sherlock:
- “Why? How did I get into this?
By marrying her came the inner voice.
‘It’s not my fault, is it?’ he asked himself.
Yes it is. You weren’t in love with her when you got married and you pulled the wool over your own eyes and hers.”
Pierre’s inner voice is sharp as a tack – but where has it been all this time?!
- “Why? How did I get into this?
- Helene walks in to tell Pierre the duel was dumb and that he was goaded into thinking Dolokhov was her lover but it’s all lies but, by this point, Pierre has already had his inner voice telling him that so he gets annoyed and throws something at Helene and then wants to be separated but she wants his money/position (idek by this point) and then he lets her have it and he moves out … Can’t say I’m surprised by this not at all surprising turn of events but…
- The miraculous Andrey has returned from the dead and burst into the house just in time! Huzzah! But his coming can only be a bad omen… his pregnant wife has gone into labour, he’s back from the dead, and this is the 1800s… I know where this is going…
- Yep, it went there. Bye bye Lise, I’d like to say this was a surprising turn of events but no, tis not.
- In yet more of the seeming mission to vindicate Dolokhov’s character and make me feel bad for hating him, he’s in love with Sonya so he proposes and she turns him down, because she’s still in love with Nikolay. But everyone, including Natasha, Nikolay and probably Sonya herself, knows that Nikolay is never going to marry her. He advises her to think carefully about Dolokhov’s proposal though, because he loves her and probably always will but doesn’t want to marry her… because he’s young and because his mother doesn’t want him to. Or so he claims. I feel like Nikolay is just incompetent at everything and blundering – he’s trying so hard not to “deceive her” (his words) but equally isn’t really giving her any kind of answer either which way so it’s even more confusing to work out what he actually feels about the whole shebang. Jeez, Sonya, you sure can pick ’em, can’t you?
- So, as one does, amidst all this furore Nikolay and Dolokhov play cards and it doesn’t go terribly well. Why is Nikolay gambling and betting RIDICULOUS amounts of money against Dolokhov? Is he just that much of a child that he wants to self-destruct? Is he trying to prove he has the money to bet so casually? Sometimes, I don’t get boys. As Dolokhov points out that Sonya is in love with Nikolay, the man himself snaps (” ‘My cousin has nothing to do with this! Keep her out of it!’ he cried with fury.”) so I can only presume it has everything to do with this.
(Nikolay is forever this puppy ineffectually biting the ear. The cat is everyone else putting up with him.)
- Elsewhere in the Rostov family, in a not-at-all surprising turn of events, Denisov hanging around has led to him ending up enamoured with Natasha and they dance at a party and such fun is had by all… until he proposes and then it’s less fun and kind of sad really. Poor guy. This section has not been good for proposals or marriage.
- I think Pierre is about to be suckered into becoming a Freemason. I’d vaguely heard about mason stuff happening but… I just… why?? This is like when Victor Hugo digresses for SO MANY PAGES about the sewer system – like that’s cool and all bro but where are you going with this and why?
- So now Pierre’s a Freemason I guess, despite the fact he didn’t really believe in a Supreme Being and all that. But he believes in brotherhood and, hey, he might have forgot already that one of the central tenements of masonry is discretion but, hey, ‘two out of three aint bad’ and all that, right? Also, I’m sorry, but throughout the entire description of the initiation ceremony I was just thinking of the creepy scene from Hot Fuzz where Sergeant Angel stumbles on the gathering of the Neighbourhood Watch Alliance and they’re all in robes and chanting… it somewhat ruins the effect.
- Andrey seems downtrodden, depressed, and despondent about everything and, do you know what? This is the first time I even vaguely like Andrey as a character. That probably says something deeply concerning about me, doesn’t it? Ah well. So Pierre visits him and is surprised to find Andrey so despondent and not like himself (well, war tends to do that to a person, Pierre, but you wouldn’t know, would you?) but they engage in a good ol’ healthy debate about the existence of God and an after life and Andrey’s sense of fighting spirit is somewhat roused by their well-meaning argument. Ok, I like him just fine now, thanks Pierre, it took you becoming a Freemason for it to happen but it is for the greater good because now I don’t entirely hate Andrey.
- Meanwhile Rostov is back at war but Denisov has been injured and Nikolay goes to find him. Upon arriving at a hospital of sorts and walking through the privates’ ward which obv is disgusting, poor baby Nikolay seems surprised to see that illness and death exist. But it’s ok, he finds his people (the officers’ ward is much nicer and cleaner) and all is right with the world.
- In the meantime Denisov had borrowed supplies from another regiment because his own men were starving and, hey, we all have to learn to share sometime. But he’s court-martialled for it because, you know, stealing is wrong. Denisov insists on stubbornly (and loudly) letting all his fellow ward-mates know that it’s his right to do the best by his men… but he obviously relents and has Nikolay take a request for a pardon from the Emperor once visiting hours are over.
- Bby Rostov snaps: “How can you judge what would have been best! How can you judge of the actions of the Emperor? What right have we to do any judging? […] We’re not officials in the diplomatic section, we’re soldiers, that’s what we are […] If they tell us to die, we die. And if we get punished, we must be in the wrong. Ours is not to judge.” Jesus, Rostov, this enthusiasm is getting a little bit too much now.
Aaaand that’s a wrap on Volume II Parts I and II, folks.
As you might have guessed, at the end of this week I fell behind with the reading schedule which meant rushing to catch up on Sunday evening and also meant that I’m not entirely sure what on earth I just read. But hey, I’m sure it’ll all make sense in the end, right? rIGHT? I’m now moving onto Volume II Parts III and IV so we’ll see what delights the book has in store for me this upcoming week. Overall, I think I’m… (whisper it in case I scare it away) enjoying War and Peace, that’s right folks, it only took like 400 pages but we hit the point where it’s getting fun, long may this feeling last!