The War and Peace Progress Report

I’m in the vicinity of the one-quarter mark of Tolstoy’s War and Peace. I’m committed to it now; barring unforeseen tragedy I should be able to finish this in two or three weeks. I’ve been reading it for a week now, mostly on the bus and sometimes in the evening and on weekend afternoons. I have to admit, I made the right choice in selecting the Maude translation; it reads very smoothly. So how is it? Pretty great; I actually care about what’s going to happen to these three families of pampered Tsarist elites. The Battle of Austerlitz has just left the Russians and their allies in disarray. Two major characters, Nikolai and Andrei have had their trials by fire and their worlds rocked by the experience. Nikolai is on leave in Moscow and he now questions his “preordained” betrothal to his cousin Sonya. Along with Princess Mary Bolkonsky’s prior refusal to marry young Prince Vassili, these developments seem to be the first indication that characters in this grand soap opera can exert some free will their lives. I’d read about Tolstoy’s view in the book of events overwhelming characters and sweeping them along helplessly. Pierre certainly seems to let the Fates tell him what to do, at least so far, and the battles—which Tolstoy conveys in all their disorder and confusion—lend credence to this theme of “puppets on a string.” Prince Andrei has been injured and now questions his former admiration of Napoleon, now that he has stared Death in the face. So, I’ve already read more than 300 pages, which is a good-sized novel in itself, but there remains another 1,000 to go. It took awhile to ingrain the massive number of characters and their various relations to one another, but I think I’ve got it down now. I’m in for the haul, folks. My previous gargantuan read, Les Miserables, was a bore, but I cannot say the same for War and Peace. I’m juggling this with another 550-page book on Walter Winchell, the radio-age gossip reporter. I’m reading that one in the evenings and have surpassed page 300. Happy reading.

-EG

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