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Friday, December 12, 2008

War and Peace - Ostensibly Volume 1 Discussion

Overall I felt this was a lot of detail building up characters and setting a tone for the novel. Some of the accounts of the men's reaction to war was almost comical, but I thought a rather rare peak into the real emotions. So many novels I've read, are riddled with heroism and courage. Which I'm sure happens. But in the face of death, how many people crumble inside? I know I would.

The character of Andrei I found enticing in so many ways. He tries so hard to be valiant, to make some mark on the war. In his mind he pictures all his heroic deeds. I can relate to this. Dreamers. His realization that all he loved was power. That he would even trade his son and wife for that power made me feel disgust with him. But I was still interested in what would happen to him. Now that he's had some sort of spiritual experience from being wounded I'm curious to see where he will take it and if power will remain such a desirable thing for him. It certainly diminished his lofty view of Napoleon. I also thought that his fall, being wounded so early into his attempt at glory, points to the reality of life and how easily we can be pulled from our mental pedestals.

Political wrangling over the estate of the Count seemed to be treated like a side story in comparison to the war chapters but I found it very interesting. Boris' marriage though foreshadows something negative in my mind. It just seems he was too easily thrown into it without his own will. He has a weakness for giving in to others without asserting himself or even thinking situations through enough to have assertions. I think it will be fun to return to this story line and find what happens to him.

I like Tolstoy's characterization of women so far too. Not completely powerless. But varied. I like that they are not all the same. Either valiantly bold, powerfully cunning, or simpering and weak. Some authors have a tendency to slot women like that and give no attention to the reality that women are as different as men. (Dickens for example)

As for the writing itself, I am enjoying the book. It looks daunting, but as soon as I pick it up I'm completely engaged. So much detail and people to track, and yet each story so far has held my interest.

And what are your thoughts on the novel so far?


patches said...

On biased note, the war itself is of little interest to me. I know it is integral the development of the characters, and their interaction with one another. WIthout it, there wouldn't be a text, but I found reading the details of the war itself and the commanders tedious. It isn't a shortcoming of the novel, but one of my attention span.

It is because of the characters, that I am still reading. Prince Vasìli and Anna Mikháylovna (Boris's mother) are equally cunning in their manipulation of others, though Vasìli has proven more successful in gaining financially.

Nicolas Rostov has been a poster child of naiveté. His inexperience in the world beyond his family was well presented. Like Prince Andrey, he had romanticized notions of his heroism in the war, as well as a desire a youthful love for the Emperor. Nicolas wants to be hero, he wants be called to the front, and when it happens, his bravado is quickly crushed, and we are reminded of his inexperience.

The Counts illegitimate son, Pierre is an interesting case. He's lacking in the refinement of the other society types, and completely obtuse when Anna Pávlovna tries to reign him in. But in his ignorance of Russian society's ways he is more forthright and less agenda oriented than the others. He has definite opinions, and doesn't concern himself about whether appropriate to express them. Because of this I am rather puzzled by his submission to Vasìli's pushiness regarding the marriage of Helene, unless perhaps Pierre doesn't really himself.

Indigo Virgo said...

I'm typing with eyes xlosed so I can't read this...

Sorry, I am totally lame and am not caught up.