Thursday, 30 June 2016

War and Peace #7: - II.vii.2

I am officially enjoying War and Peace. It took me about seven weeks and almost 400 pages, but now that I am almost halfway through the novel I have started to appreciate it. I have also set myself the challenge to finish War and Peace before September. I have 191 chapters read, which should take me about 10 weeks if I read 20 chapters a week, so I think I should be OK if I don't have an off-week! Maybe I'll move the weekly section up to 25 however because actually the page count of the chapters can be quite low.

Summary of Chapters:
We finished last week with Pierre reconciling himself with Helene and we continue there as well. Helene  is a success in Petersburg society, which is a major surprise to both Pierre and Leo Tolstoy since they both think of her as stupid. Boris continues to hover on her peripheries which worries Pierre. From there we move to the Rostovs who have also come to Petersburg. Berg, a soldier, finally proposes to the oldest Rostov daughter, Vera, and demands her dowry from a cash-strapped Count Rostov. Meanwhile Boris' childhood passion for Natasha is reignited despite trying to cold-hearted social climber with his eyes set on a rich heiress. However, Natasha discovers love when she dances with Prince Andrew at a splendid ball.

As Prince Andrew starts to appreciate life again he becomes disillusioned with politics and enchanted with Natasha. After frequent visits and run-ins at parties, Natasha confides in her mother about her love and Prince Andrew does the same to Pierre. Prince Andrew asks from permission to propose from his father, who demands that they wait for a year before getting married. Natasha still accepts and it's all adorable. Meanwhile his father, Prince Bolkonski, treats Princess Mary like crap because he is frustrated about Prince Andrew. Nicholas Rostov is also called home because someone finally has to start dealing with the serious financial crisis happening to the Rostovs. He does so by beating up their financial adviser and then both him and his father decide to keep out of things they don't understand.

Feel of the Chapters:
There is something so romantic and sweet about the chapters focusing on Natasha and Prince Andrew, which is the majority of this week's section. Tolstoy seems to have a soft spot for them, or at least seems willing to indulge in describing their love affair.

General Points:
  • I'm starting to wonder if Tolstoy is a little bit misogynistic at times. He seems to be fond to let his male characters "discover the weakness of the feminine", which is a bit disappointing. I feel that the male characters are given a lot more emotional and mental gravitas, whereas in this week's section two women were called stupid despite seemingly handling themselves really well.
  • What is it about a ball that is so much fun? Balls were also some of my favourite parts in Jane Austen's novels and I think it's due to the fact it brings together a whole range of characters and that there is bound to be something important happening. No author brings his characters to a ball to just dance.
  • Age difference, it's a thing. However, so seems to be expecting love in marriage. Natasha and her mother, in discussing Boris and Prince Andrew, do seem to see being in love as crucial to marriage. I think that's interesting, especially since we've seen at least one marriage already (Pierre and Helene) which definitely doesn't feel love-based.
  • What is interesting is that we started War and Peace with children and youths, whereas now these children have grown up and have to take up new responsibility. How they'll cope with entering the "real world" will probably be the matter of the rest of the book. 
'Natasha was happier than she had ever been in her life. She was at that height of bliss when one becomes completely kind and good, and does not believe in the possibility of evil, unhappiness, or sorrow.' p.363-4
I was so happy for Natasha in these chapters even if I worry for her as well. But she is such a fresh breath of air, so unconcerned with how to behave and thereby being one of the novel's freest characters.
'"Let the dead bury their dead, but while one has life one must live and be happy!"' p.368
Prince Andrew has discovered the value of life once again thanks to Natasha's own love for life. It's adorable, I ship it, and therefore it is probably doomed.

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