Update on War & Peace

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I’m now 625 pages through this monstrosity (1455 pages total), and I am definitely in for the duration. I don’t know how to describe the book exactly, but it sort of seems like it’s the book for the person who can’t decide whether to watch The Young and the Restless or a John Wayne flick. I’m not a fan of either, but for whatever reason Tolstoy has me.

The book I bought has a cheat sheet prior to the story’s beginning that outlines the major characters by family. This will be my format in my attempt at an update.

THE BEZUKHOVS: This should actually be singular. The Bezukhov story is all about Pierre so far. The Count’s death opened the story, and after buying his cousins out (the Mamontov sisters), Pierre (the Count’s illegitimate son yet total heir) has been one of the novel’s major characters ever since. Pierre is an odd guy from day one, but I can’t help but like him. He is unconventional to say the least: definitely not the typical high society type. His marriage is weird, and his sudden conversion to the world of the Masons even more strange, but I find his thoughtful demeanor compelling. But he’s slipping into depression, and I’m worried for him.

THE KURAGINS: What a bunch of jerks! Prince Vasily is a spoiled old man with kids who followed in his footsteps. Anatol can’t seem to keep his pants on, and his brother, Ippolit, is an Idiot. Ellen seemed to have the best shot at being likable, but she has failed miserably. Her marriage to Pierre has been a disaster as to the marriage, though she has risen to the apex of Petersburg society what with her beauty & money & connections. But I can’t stand her.

THE BOLKONSKYS: Now here is my hands-down favorite family, though the patriarch is a flat-out jerk. I want to like him sort of as a mad genius type, but the mental abuse of his daughter is a bit too much to stomach. Prince Andrei (his son) remains my favorite character, though I’m not sure why. He seems arrogant in that aloof sort of way, but something about him I like. He is definitely his own man, so maybe that’s it. After the death in childbirth of his pretty little wife, Lisa, and his war injury, he went AWOL from life for quite some time, but little Natasha has brought him back. I’ll admit I never saw that coming. As for Marya (Andrei’s sister), she’s a tragic sort of girl: very religious, but in a naively sincere way. She’s kind of too pure and too ugly for Russian society, and I’m wondering if she really will pursue her secret plan to hit the road with the homeless religious nuts that she knows. If so, I wonder what will happen to Andrei & Lisa’a son whom Marya is raising.

THE ROSTOVS: I think this is the family the readers are supposed to like, but I just can’t fall in love with them. The Count seems a nice guy, but sort of stupid – the kind of guy that comes across as wasting what could have been a productive life. His wife isn’t much different. Much of the novel revolves around their children, Nikolai and Natasha (their other son, Petya, is a young teen boy, and as with most teen boys, isn’t very noteworthy yet; their oldest daughter, Vera, is now married thank goodness, and we’re all glad her snitty self isn’t much of a character either). One can’t really hate Nikolai, but I just don’t care much for him either. I can’t explain why. Natasha, on the other hand, is so easy to fall in love with, and I have. She and Prince Andrei were independently my favorite characters, and when they fell in love with each other it caught me completely offguard. I never saw that coming. There are reasons I probably shouldn’t like Natasha – so bubbly and full of herself – but I adore her, as does anyone who comes into contact with her. Their cousin, Sonya, is a tragic figure, too. She is a minor character so far, quite humble and perfect and deeply in love with Nikolai. I can’t help but like her, but I know so little.

THE DRUBETSKOYS: This family is simply a mother and son, a poor family to the high society crowd who find ways to milk their relationships into getting ahead one way or another. I can’t stand them. Anna is openly conniving, and Boris has found out how to network his way to the top. I’m glad his relationship with Natasha was a childhood romance that got nipped in the bud when he began to fall for her again, and I’m afraid his friendship with Ellen might be trouble down the road. The Drubetskoys are simply a couple of suck-ups.

That’s the story so far. In a hundred pages, I’ll officially be halfway through. I’ll keep you updated along the way – since I doubt anyone else will actually read it!

5 Responses to “Update on War & Peace”

  1. juvenal_urbino Says:

    Another good update. It’s interesting that you, as a reader, mentally organize the book in that way. Or did you do that just for posting purposes?

    And I have to ask: is that photo of the edition you own?

  2. Al Sturgeon Says:

    I do mentally organize the book that way, but I blame the cheat sheet at the front that led me that way. Plus, the endless variation of Russian names confused me at first, and I kept referring to the cheat sheet to keep straight who’s who.

    And no, my edition is a boring one – a short, fat, squatty paperback that reminds me of a shotput.

  3. Michael Lasley Says:

    I also like the way you organize the book. And I always have problems with the Russian names, as well. Nothing wrong with cheat-sheets.

    I’ve never heard a book described as a shotput. I like it. But I love the edition in the photo. It would look good on my bookshelf.

  4. Al Sturgeon Says:

    Thanks, Mikey.

    Hey, I’m coming to Pepperdine’s lectures this year. Will you still be there, or will you guys be gone for summer?

  5. Michael Lasley Says:

    I’ll be here! You’re welcome to my couch! School will be out, though, so mostly it will just be a bunch of older people on campus. I mean, we’ll look like kids comparatively.

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