War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy

War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
Length: 1358 pgs.
Genre: Classics
My Rating: 4 Stars

I find it hard to write a review of these longer epic works of classic literature. They involve so much and it’s hard to narrow it down to talk about it. The first time I read War and Peace I was, let’s just say, not that impressed. I found it to be simply okay. But I also knew that at some point I needed to read it again. And so I did. This second time around I loved it so much more! This book is truly phenomenal. I do feel it has its own flaws; but in my opinion those flaws don’t detract from the book overall.

Tolstoy includes a lot of details in the war sections but also in the other parts of the story, including a lengthy philosophical digression in the second part of the epilogue. As I have already mentioned in a previous post, as far as the war and battlefield portions go, while I think we may not necessarily need all the details he gives, I can see how this attention to detail really does contribute to the epic scope of this novel. Because this book truly is a masterpiece of epic proportions.

Regarding the philosophical detours, when you understand that Tolstoy wrote this novel with the intent to include reflections of his beliefs on a number of issues, then you can see why he included so much of the various sections with all the details of war and the parts that were treatises on different topics such as history, free will, and such. Understanding that, it makes sense that he would devote a portion of the epilogue to delve into his beliefs more and in turn, bring them to a close. But I didn’t feel like he brought them to a close. It felt like he just went on and on talking about the issues and left off in the middle of the conversation. So the last part of the epilogue left a bit to be desired unfortunately. In my opinion, I think that the whole second part of the epilogue (as well as some of the details in the various war sections) could have been left out. And that really is what ultimately led me to give this book 4 stars instead of 5 stars. If I had not been bent on finishing every single word, I would have been tempted to simply skip that last philosophical part of the epilogue. Had it left off at the end of part I of the epilogue, I really think I would have walked away from the book feeling like I would want to keep reading about the lives of the characters that we have gotten to know so well throughout the book. Instead, I found myself just plowing my way through that second and last part of the epilogue to get it finished. Sadly, by the last sentence of the book, I was glad it was done. So for me, I think the story would have had a better finish if it had ended after part one of the epilogue. But that’s just my humble opinion. 😉

I also think it’s these philosophical detours coupled with its immense length that makes it feel intimidating. I was certainly intimidated by the thought of reading it for the first time! But truly, despite the length and philosophy parts, this book is so incredibly readable and highly entertaining. Tolstoy’s writing truly is magnificent in this work.

And speaking of Tolstoy’s amazing writing, let’s take just a brief minute to look at how he wrote his characters. Tolstoy managed to write very complex, layered characters. So much so that I really can not pick a favorite character. He managed to capture human nature so well. The characters portray their own struggles with life, how to live life best, and what is important in life. Because of the length of this novel, we get to watch the characters grow and develop and change over many years. We see their good sides and their not so good sides. Even the ones that overall seem like not so good characters, Tolstoy succeeds in leading the reader to feel pity and sadness for them at some point. For example, Anatole. If I had to pick just one or two characters I consistently did not like, it would be him and his sister Helene. However, towards the end of the book, Tolstoy brings us to a scene on the battlefield with Anatole and Andrey when they are both injured and you can’t help but feel sorry for Anatole. In fact, this particular scene in the book is one of the most moving scenes in Andrey’s life in my opinion. Andrey himself is moved to not just pity for Anatole but also forgiveness and love. When you know what has happened between these two characters, then you understand how monumental this is for Andrey. It is a powerful scene!

Despite the the flaws in this novel that I mentioned, multiple times throughout the book I found myself remarking that Tolstoy’s writing in this novel was genius. It truly is a phenomenal work. Even though it is a long book, it really is extremely readable. It’s immersive, absorbing, and gripping.

If you want to give it a try, I wrote a post on Tips for Reading Classic Russian Literature. Be sure to check it out. Hopefully it will be helpful!

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Links to All of My Reflection Posts on War and Peace

Volume 1, Part 1

Volume 1, Part 2

Volume 1, Part 3

Volume 2, Parts 1-3

Volume 2, Parts 4-5

Volume 3

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War and Peace by Tolstoy – Volume 3

*Potential Mild Spoilers In This Post*

As you venture into Volume 3, Tolstoy gives the reader another longer section set at the war and battlefield. We had the first big section earlier on but then I felt like the war and battlefield scenes were kind of sprinkled in after that. Volume 3 starts out with a philosophical digression that leads right into that second longer section. As I began to read that, I found myself asking – Is all this focus on the war and the battlefield really necessary Tolstoy? These sections felt somewhat disconnected from the storyline of the key families in the book. Yes, we have some of our main characters going off to the war and we follow them when they’re on the battlefield. But it felt distant; as if it wasn’t really impacting the key families that much. I posted a video on my Instagram where I talked about this and how these parts compared to Les Misérable. You can watch my video over on my Instagram page.

But then I kept reading and y’all, it DOES connect even more! It DOES come together more! The war scenes begin to entangle themselves into the lives of our key families even more when Napoleon marches closer and closer to areas where some of them live. The Bolkonsky’s and Rostov’s end up having to vacate their homes and flee. And also, Napoleon decides to descend upon Moscow. So all those war parts of the book? Well, Tolstoy brings it to the doorstep of key families in our story more so than just having some of the characters going off to war and reading about them while they are there.

Speaking of all those minute details Tolstoy gives in those war sections, did I want to read through some of them fast so I wouldn’t get bogged down by them? Yes. And I did in some parts. But I don’t think that detracts from the overall scope of this novel. And while maybe we don’t need all of the detail Tolstoy gives, I think that it’s all these different details that give it the panoramic scope that it has. I think that despite the tendency to want to read really quickly through some of those parts, it’s all the attention to detail that makes this book grand and all-encompassing.

Now, let’s back up and and I’ll share some more various tidbits from my reading in Volume 3. This volume starts out with Tolstoy introducing the section philosophizing on the nature of history and human actions. I found it quite interesting and thought-provoking. Some of what he said even reminded me of the concept of interbeing that Thich Nhat Hanh talks about. For instance, in the first chapter of Volume 3 Tolstoy says:

A deed once done becomes irrevocable, and any action comes together over time with millions of actions performed by other people to create historical significance.” (p. 670)

When talking about interbeing, Thich Nhat Hanh has said: “Everything relies on everything else in the cosmos in order to manifest—whether a star, a cloud, a flower, a tree, or you and me.

While Tolstoy’s views probably weren’t exactly like that of interbeing, Tolstoy’s quote above just brought that concept to my mind. His whole digression was interesting to read. I feel like it was a glimpse into the life of this author and what he believed.

Of course there was a ton of character development. Too much to try to write about.

One thing I’ve noticed in this book, and I marked a number of examples of it in this particular volume, is how Tolstoy will contrast something hard (such as the war, or a personal struggle with a character, etc.) with the beauty of the natural world. I thought this was not only interesting, but magnificently done. Here are a few examples:

The evening sky, recently so clear, was blotted out with smoke. A new crescent moon stood high in the heavens, weirdly distorted through the smoke.” (p. 774)

(It’s talking about Princess Marya here.) “She was thinking about the finality of death and her own vileness of spirit, which she hadn’t known about until now, until it had emerged during her father’s illness. She wanted to pray, but hadn’t the courage to do so; she could not turn to God in her present spiritual state. She lay like this for a very long time. The sun had gone round to the other side of the house and the slanting rays of evening light filtered in through the open window, casting a glow across part of the morocco cushion Princess Marya was staring at. Suddenly her train of thought was broken.” (p. 801)

It was the same place, the same vista that he had enjoyed yesterday, but now the entire landscape was covered with troops and gunsmoke, and in the clear morning air, as the bright sun came up over Pierre’s left shoulder, it bathed the whole scene with slanting rays of piercing light, touching everything with gold and pink, and leaving long, dark shadows.” (p. 876)

Isn’t that writing magnificent? The way Tolstoy intermingles the beauty of the natural world with the smoke from the battlefield or a character’s personal struggle. Stunning.

I just continue to marvel at Tolstoy’s writing. I’ll end this post with another passage I marked. I found this to be such a powerful passage!

The whole plain, which had looked so lovely and bright earlier in the day with all those puffs of smoke and the bayonets glinting in the morning sunshine, was now shrouded in a cloud of dark, damp mist and smoke reeking with the strange, pungent smell of saltpetre and blood. One or two dark clouds had come up, and a fine drizzle was sprinkling the dead, the wounded, the fearful, the weary and the wavering. ‘Good people, that’s enough,’ it seemed to say. ‘Stop and think. What are you doing?’” (p. 908)

War and Peace by Tolstoy – Volume 2, Parts 4-5

*Potential Spoilers In This Post*

As we read on, we continue to get more and more insight into some of our characters. I felt that Part 4 started off with giving us more insight into Rostov. He was back in the regiment and enjoyed his life there. Yet, as more and more letters came from home explaining how things were getting worse there, he felt the pull to go home and try to bring a bit of happiness to his parents. But that pull wasn’t without it’s contradicting feelings. It says:

Reading these letters, Nikolay felt dismayed that anyone should want to extricate him from the environment in which he was living so quietly and comfortably, but off from all the complexities of existence. He felt that sooner or later he might have to plunge back into that maelstrom of life, with all sorts of things going wrong and having to be put right, stewards’ accounts, quarrels and intrigues, ties, society, to say nothing of Sonya’s love and the promise he had made to her.” (p. 534)

Nickolay does indeed return home; not without some discontent about it though.

Tolstoy plunges into a whole section where there is a hunting party and they all go out on the hunt. I have to admit, this wasn’t a favorite part. I kind of just read through it quickly and moved on.

Other events that unfold:

*We see more unjust treatment of Marya by her father. I feel so sorry for Marya! In dealing with her father, the girl is a saint! She continues to take his harsh words and treatment, even still speaking kindly of him. At one point, he got so angry with her that he told her he wanted her gone. Out of the house. Marya had done nothing but take care of him and love him and be a devoted daughter to him and it’s like he just suddenly completely turned on her. It is so hard to read these parts.

*As I mentioned in the last post, Natasha and Prince Andrey are engaged. Natasha’s mother didn’t feel too keenly about that match. In fact, it said she knew that there was something terribly wrong about it. But I don’t think she could quite put her finger on why. Andrey ended up going out of town and Natasha did well with the separation for awhile. Unfortunately, Anatole sets his sights upon her and tried to pull her away even though he was already married (a fact most people weren’t aware of). I got so frustrated with Natasha in this section. She ended up breaking off her engagement to Andrey on this simple whim. I mean, she had only seen/spoke with Anatole during this time like maybe three times. She decided to throw away everything with Andrey for this whim. And of course, as the readers, we know that Anatole wasn’t serious about her. He wasn’t going to marry her. He couldn’t.

Thankfully, the plans for her and Anatole to sneak away were foiled. In the end, Pierre told Anatole to leave town and he did. Natasha was so upset she started to poison herself; but after drinking just a bit of poison she realized she didn’t want to and ran and told Sonya what she’d done. She was given the appropriate medicines and she didn’t die. She started recovering but by the end of this volume, she was still in recovery from the incident. She did ask Pierre to ask Andrey to forgive her. Pierre had already had a conversation with Andrey before that, trying to encourage him to renew the marriage sentiments to Natasha; but Andrey would have none of that. He was done with it. Pierre told Natasha he would tell Andrey what she said and now I am anxiously waiting to dive into Volume 3 to see what happens!

*The volume ends with a scene with Pierre that I felt was very similar to a scene with Andrey. Earlier in the book, Andrey was lying on the battlefield injured and he looked up at the sky and marveled at it. As Volume 2 ends, we have a scene where Pierre has just left the Rostov’s and is heading home. He looks up at the night sky and marvels at it. It’s as if seeing the magnificence of the night sky helped Pierre distance himself from all that was going on.

This heavenly body seemed perfectly attuned to Pierre’s newly melted heart, as it gathered reassurance and blossomed into new life.” (p. 663)

I love how Tolstoy draws in beautiful descriptions of nature and the natural world. I also love how he depicts the impact nature and the natural world can have on a person. How we connect with nature and how nature can have such a powerful impact on us. Nature has a way of being able to bring us peace and beauty and joy.

Some more beautiful, descriptive writing from Tolstoy in this Volume:

“The first signs of winter were in the air now, with morning frosts hardening the earth after its soaking by the autumn rain…” (p. 539)

It was clear and frosty. A dark, starlit heaven looked down on the black roofs and the dirty, dusky streets.
(p. 663)

War and Peace by Tolstoy – Volume 2, Parts 1-3

*Potential Spoilers In This Post*

Well, we don’t get too far into Volume II before we start seeing Pierre and Helene’s marriage going downhill. Have you ever wanted to reach in a book and grab a character and say “What were you thinking???” Yeah. That was me with Pierre. He suspects Helene of being unfaithful to him.

Now, for those who have read War and Peace or are reading it now and have read up to this point, I’d like to hear your thoughts on something. Maybe I missed something, but in what I read, the text didn’t seem to indicate if Helene had an affair for sure with Dolokhov. The mini-series I watched portrays it as that she did. Did I miss something? It’s clear in the text that there was what seem to potentially be some borderline flirting from Helene towards Dolokhov but nothing is said beyond that. Your thoughts?

Anyway, Pierre suspects Helene is having an affair. And we see a side of that we haven’t seen before – his anger. Helene claims she’s innocent but he really doesn’t even want to listen to her. Then he goes off and ventures into freemasonry and basically leaves his wife on her own. They don’t stay together in the same place; they don’t live together in the same home. They are basically married only in name and on paper at this point. I’m beginning to wonder about Pierre. He’s changing and I don’t think I like some of the changes I see in him.

Oh Tolstoy! What are you doing? You have me liking one character at the beginning but then I start to question that and wonder if I’m going to like that character after all. Then you have me disliking another character very much in the beginning but then he starts to change and I begin to think he may turn out to be a character I might really like in the end. Genius writing! Absolute genius!

So let’s talk about Prince Andrey then. It’s in this part of the book that I found myself in tears. Andrey makes it back to his wife right when she’s giving birth to their child. He goes into her while she is in the throes of labor:

Prince Andrey walked around the couch and kissed her on the forehead. ‘My little darling,’ he said, never having called her that before, ‘God is merciful…’” (p. 351)

And his wife dies right after giving birth to their child. I teared up big time when I read this part. 😦

I do think this becomes another turning point for Andrey.

I haven’t spoken much about Rostov. Rostov comes back from military duty. He talks to Sonya and encourages her to accept Dolokhov’s marriage proposal. He tells her that he does care for her but basically he’s young and is likely to fall in and out of love many times. Sonya says it enough for her to know that he does care for her. And she ends up refusing Dolokhov’s proposal. He and Rostov get into a gambling game and Rostov loses big time; which puts him in huge debt to Dolokhov. He is embarrassed to go to his father; but he does. They work things out and his father gives him the money to pay off the debt. I think this might prove to be a turning point for Rostov.

Let’s fast forward a bit more. Time passes and Marya takes on the role of being like a mother for baby Nickolay, Andrey’s son. Andrey has changed. We see him struggle with what I think is grief and depression. One evening at a soiree, he notices Natasha. And he begins to come alive again. They start to fall in love with one another. And by the end of Part III, they become engaged with the understanding that they cannot marry for a year. This was Andrey’s father’s stipulation. Andrey tells Natasha that if at any point during that year time frame she wants to back out of the engagement, she is free to do so. He does not want her to feel obligated if she falls out of love with him.

Goodness! I’m just barely scratching the surface here. There is just so much going on in this epic story! I’ll leave off with a bit more about Pierre.

Towards the end of Part III, we see how society views Pierre:

In society’s eyes Pierre was a fine gentleman, something of a laughing stock, the purblind husband of a distinguished wife, a clever eccentric who never did anything but was quite harmless, a nice fellow with his heart in the right place. Meanwhile Pierre’s spirit was undergoing a complex and difficult process of inner development that would be a revelation to him and lead to a host of spiritual doubts and delights.” (p. 479)

Uh oh! What’s in store for Pierre? We’ll have to read on to find out! And on to Part IV I go!

Oh – and I have to share this passage really quick as I just thought the descriptive writing was beautiful:

It was one of those March nights when winter, desperate for one last fling, hurls down its snows and slings its squalls with a special fury.” (p. 349)

War and Peace by Tolstoy – Volume 1, Part 3

*Potential Spoilers In This Post*

As I entered Part III, I was cautiously optimistic that maybe soon I might see Prince Andrey grow and change. So I was on the lookout for that. It was a bumpy ride, filled with doubts all the way until the very end of this section. Like this part for example:

Prince Andrey was always invigorated by guiding a young man and helping him on in the world. This propensity for helping other people – the kind of help he would have been too proud ever to accept for himself – kept him in close touch with the circle which had success in its gift, and which he found attractive. Only too pleased to take up Boris’s cause, he took him to see Prince Dolgorukov.” (p. 265-266)

To me, this reveals more of his propensity for wanting to be in circles where he will gain prestige. He wasn’t really that interested in helping Boris for the sake of helping Boris. It was more about him helping himself by helping Boris. Then there is this part where Andrey is thinking to himself:

I know many people are dear and precious to me, my father, my sister, my wife – my nearest and dearest, yet, however terrible and unnatural it may seem, I would give them all up for one moment of glory, triumph over men, to be loved by men I don’t even know, and never shall know, to be loved by these people there….” (p. 281)

But then, right before the section ended, there it was. That glimmer of hope that his character would begin to become different. It said:

He was just glad that someone had stopped and was standing over him, and his only desire was for these people to help him and bring him back to life, because life was good and he saw it all differently now.
(p. 311, emphasis mine)

I continue to watch Prince Andrey’s character with great interest.

In regards to Pierre, something I noticed about him in this section is that he appears to be pretty naive. How will this play out? He also seems to second guess his intuition. It is clear he knows deep down that marrying Helene is a mistake. “Neither did he know whether or not it would turn out to be a good thing – he had an inkling that it wouldn’t – but he did know it was going to happen.” (p. 219) He senses this is not a good decision…that it may not turn out well. And he continues to question it more and more. Why did he seem to think he had no choice but to marry her despite his nagging suspicion it was a wrong decision? I am puzzled by that.

“‘All this had to be and couldn’t have been otherwise,’ thought Pierre, ‘so it’s no use wondering whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing. It has to be a good thing because it’s something definite, and there’s no more of that agonizing suspense.’” (p. 227)

Now let’s talk about Marya. Oh my goodness! I felt so sorry for her. She desperately just wants to be loved….to be married, to have children.

In her thoughts about marriage, Princess Marya dreamt of family happiness, a home with children, but her first, her strongest, her most secret desire was for earthly love. This feeling was at its strongest when she was trying hardest to conceal it from others, and even from herself.” (p. 234)

I was so livid with her father for the way he spoke to her one time in front of company. It was horrifying! But then he turns around later and tells her that whether she marries Anatole or not is her choice. He said, “‘Remember this, Princess: I stick to the rule that a girl has every right to choose. And I give you complete freedom. Remember this: your happiness in life depends on your decision. No need to worry about me.’” (p. 244)

One of the things that I think Tolstoy does so well is that he portrays characters as very complex and multi-faceted. He allows a character to err, to have flaws, to have greatness, to do good….all wrapped up in one. His characters aren’t fairy-tale characters. They are real in all the messiness of life.

Tolstoy’s writing is phenomenal. Here are just a few of the passages I marked that I thought were so well written:

all of them felt they were doing something profound, solemn and serious. Every general and every soldier was aware of his own insignificance, like a tiny grain of sand in an ocean of humanity, yet as a part of that vast whole they sensed a huge collective strength.” (p. 260)

The intense activity that had begun that morning in the Emperors’ headquarters and then stimulated all the ensuing activity was like the first turn of the centre wheel in a great tower clock. One wheel began its slow rotation, another one turned, then another, and round they went faster and faster, wheels and cogs all revolving, chimes playing, figures popping in and out, and the hands measuring time, all because of that first movement.” (p. 273-274)

When the sun had completely emerged from the fog, and the fields and the mist were ablaze with its brilliance…” (p. 291)

There’s so much more I could talk about for this section. It is such an amazing novel already!

War and Peace by Tolstoy – Volume 1, Part 2

*Potential Mild Spoilers for Volume 1, Part 2 in This Post*

I can’t believe it y’all! I actually enjoyed Part 2!! As I ventured into this section that is all focused on war and the battlefield, I was nervous that I would find it just meh again. Or that it would become a slog to get through. But that was not the case at all. Sure there were a few parts here and there that I kind of just zipped right through so as not to get bogged down with it. But by and large, it was very engaging! In fact, parts of it were quite gripping. In addition, there were passages where Tolstoy just blew me away with his writing.

I find that a lot of classic literature I’ve read is often layered and one could read them multiple times and still glean things from the text. This is certainly true of Tolstoy’s writing! Therefore, I’m not worried about trying to pick up on everything as I read. So, in Part 2, I focused mostly on characters we have already been introduced to in Part I. In particular, I watched what was happening with Prince Andrey and Count Nikolay Rostov. I noticed some interesting points of character for Prince Andrey. And in case you are wondering, it didn’t change my mind about him. Yet.

Things I Picked Up On with Prince Andrey

First, I noted this particular passage and found it interesting:

“Although it was not long since Prince Andrey had left Russia, he had changed a great deal during that time. His facial expression and the way he moved and walked showed barely a trace of his former affectation and languid boredom. He had the air of a man too absorbed in enjoyable and fascinating work to think about making an impression on other people. His face showed greater contentment – with himself and those around him. His smile was easier; a warmer charm shone in his eyes.” (p. 128-129)

It would seem that he is changing. That before, he was just kind of drifting and couldn’t find meaning in the way his life was going. But now, he has found purpose and is more content. Yet, that almost feels somewhat contradictory to things we read about him further into the volume.

Some other things I noted:

  • It mentions that he daily wrote to his father. But there’s no mention whatsoever of any correspondence at all with his wife. Maybe I’m reading into this too much, but I couldn’t help but think yeah, he could make time for his father but not for his wife. I’m sorry. But that vexed me.
  • I couldn’t help but react to this part: “He felt humiliated, and the sense of humiliation soon transformed itself imperceptibly into a quite unjustified belief that they were treating him with contempt.” (p. 159) When I read that, I couldn’t help but think – “Well Andrey, maybe that’s exactly how you have made your wife feel. Have you even thought that maybe you have humiliated her and made her feel like she is being treated with contempt?” Right. Still not a fan of Andrey…..
  • We also see in several places where it seems apparent that Prince Andrey is all about himself and what can advance him and bring him fame and glory.

Now, to his credit, I did feel like he stepped outside himself in the scene with the doctor and wife. He stepped up and championed their cause and tried to help them out. It says: “He could see that his championing of the doctor’s wife in that odd contraption was exposing him to the one thing he most dreaded – becoming a laughing stock – but instinct spoke differently. Hardly were these last words out of the officer’s mouth when Prince Andrey rode straight up to him, his face distorted with fury, and raised his riding whip. ‘Let – them – through!’” (p. 175) Ok. You might have redeemed yourself a bit there Andrey. Maybe. We’ll see how his character develops or if it develops at all. Knowing that Tolstoy writes layered, complex characters, I suspect Andrey will continue to develop and that maybe there is more to why he is the way he is and just more to him than this generally speaking. I will continue to be watching his character as I read. I think he potentially makes for a very interesting, complex character study. 😉

Tolstoy’s Beautifully, Well-Crafted Writing

I think the thing that really struck me the most in Part 2, was found in Ch. 8. Tolstoy’s writing in this chapter in particular just blew me away. Through the whole chapter I was just in awe of Tolstoy’s writing. It is gripping and has you on the edge of your seat. And at the same time, he writes so descriptively that readers can picture it in their mind’s eye. The other aspect is that in this particular chapter, there are places where he writes what the soldiers are thinking. He masterfully captures these thoughts in words and not only are those portions exquisitely done but also the other passages in the chapter I already spoke about are as well. Simply magnificent!

Now for just a few passages I marked in other parts of Part II for the beautiful, descriptive writing:

Looking down over the railing, Prince Nesvitsky could see the splashing low waves of the fast-moving Enns as they rippled and swirled, chasing each other and crashing against the bridge-supports.” (p. 145)

It was a dark but starry night and the road shone black against the white snow that had fallen on the day of the battle.” (p. 158)

It was quite dark when Prince Andrey drove into Brno, and found himself surrounded by tall mansions, well-lit shops, houses with bright windows, street lamps, fine carriages rattling down the streets and the whole atmosphere of a great living town which is so appealing to a soldier back from camp.” (p. 159)

The wind had dropped and black clouds loured above the battlefield, melting on the horizon into the pother of gunsmoke.” (p. 205)

Some Fun Little Connections

*There was a mention of Demosthenes. That was exciting for me to see as I had read about Demosthenes in Plutarch’s Lives last year!

*There was a big battle scene in Ch. 18. The footnote said about that battle that it was the attack where both sides were marching towards one another with determination, neither side giving in until they collided. That made me think of the big battle scene in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe which I thought was portrayed in the 2005 movie magnificently!

*When the character Bilibin is being described, Tolstoy writes: “His speech was invariably salted with polished phrases, original, witty but of general application. They were fabricated in some inner laboratory of Bilibin’s mind, portable and ready-made for social nonentities to commit to memory and take around the other drawing-rooms.” (p. 162) When I read that, I couldn’t help but think of Mr. Collins and the dinner scene in Pride and Prejudice. (It’s at the 1:40 mark in this video clip.)

And that wraps up my reflections on Volume 1, Part 2. Onward to Part 3!

War and Peace by Tolstoy – Volume 1, Part 1

Yesterday, I was thinking that I might sort of blog my way through my reading of War and Peace. Sort of like a more in-depth journaling but in digital form. I found that I had quite a few thoughts on Part I this week, and to try to handwrite all that out in my reading journal was, well….. let’s just say it was a bit overwhelming to be honest. For some reason, typing things out seems less daunting. I also thought others might like to share this journey, adding their thoughts and comments along the way if they’ve already read War and Peace. Or if you want to read it, feel free to join me! So I created this little graphic above and plan to journal my thoughts here as I go.

This is my second time reading Tolstoy’s masterpiece War and Peace and I am reading it with a lovely group of people over on Instagram. I shared in a previous post how the first time I read it, I found it to just be okay. But that now, I feel like I am able to really soak in Tolstoy’s beautiful writing in this book. And that is totally panning out to be true. Part I draws you right into the story. Yes, there are a TON of characters introduced. But I am finding that my annotation of the characters this time around helps with that (I’m doing it a bit differently this time around since I’ve already read the book before and had a character list then). I am going to be completely honest with you. I don’t remember a lot about the storyline from my first time reading this book. I remember some of these characters to some extent, but I don’t really remember much of what happens. So it really is kind of like reading it for the first time, just with some memory of things here and there.

I already have some reactions to some of the characters.

Pierre – Ok. I’m a Pierre fan already. There is just something about him that I love. I hope this continues to remain true throughout the book!

Prince Andrey – Yeah. No. I can’t stand him. Sorry. He has this mix of arrogance with his clear disdain for his wife that just utterly rubs me the wrong way. Now, I will preface this by saying that I hope his character will evolve and change as the novel progresses. I can’t remember if it does.

Princess Anna Mikhaylovna – I find my feelings to be a bit mixed about her. She is doing what she feels she needs to do to make sure her son gets a better place in society, in a job, etc. But I also can see how she was probably somewhat annoying to those around her. So I guess my feelings are a mix between sympathy, annoyance, yet also seeing her to be a strong woman. Pretty complicated…..

Vera Rostov– What is up with Vera? I think the jury is out on her right now. She initially seems to be pretty haughty and not very nice. But I have a sneaky suspicion there’s more to her than we might think.

Princess Marya Bolkonsky – I think she is an interesting character. At times, she feels very much like she has this religiously holier-than-thou attitude. And that’s something that is off putting. But then as you read, there is a humbleness to her. And she is very forgiving and gracious and kind. I really appreciated how she approached her brother Prince Andrey about how he was with his wife and tried to help him understand what it must be like for his wife. So I’m thinking she might turn out to be a character I am going to really like.

If you notice, Tolstoy does not write one-dimensional characters. We see how these characters are multi-faceted. That’s what I’m noticing about how Tolstoy writes his characters….very layered and complex. Very realistic. Isn’t that true of all people? Aren’t we all layered and multi-dimensional? Tolstoy captures this SO well.

Some friendships I took note of:

Pierre and Prince Andrey – They seem to have a good friendship. Pierre obviously holds Prince Andrey in high regard. I will be watching to see if any more is revealed about their friendship.

Princess Anna Mikhaylovna and Countess Rostov – I thought there was such a touching scene that showed the bond these two women had. In Ch. 15 it says: “Anna Mikhaylovna’s arms were round her. She was weeping, and the countess wept too. They wept for their friendship, their kindheartedness and the unfortunate need for lifelong friends to soil their hands with anything as sordid as money, and they wept also for their lost youth…But the tears of both women were sweet…” (p. 61)

By the end of Part I, I was completely swept up into the story. But I am not so sure about entering Part II and feeling the same way. Because Part II switches to the war and the battlefield. I didn’t particularly care for those portions of the book my first time reading it and they quickly became a slog for me to read through. It will be interesting to see how it will be this time around!