War & Peace by Tolstoy

Molly and I are reading War & Peace.  It may take awhile, but we’ll be posting every Thursday until we’re done.  I’d love to be able to tweet the first part of Volume 1, but you are stuck with a somewhat more traditional post.

So, what’s War & Peace about anyway?  Napoleon is taking over the world and it will only be a matter of time before he invades Russia.  This is the story of five aristocratic Russian families during those turbulent years from 1805-1813. 

Who’s the main character?  This is about a multitude of people, but mainly about members from five families.  Here’s my scoop on the main players…Bulonskys– The Old Prince was a general in earlier wars and he has two children, Andrei and Maria.  Rostovs– Loving family with four adolescent children and never enough money.  Drubetskoys– Poor mother and her son.  Bezukhovs– A dying count,  many illegitimate children and a greedy extended family.  Kuragins– They seem sketchy, but it’s too early to tell.

What happens in Part 1?  There’s a party in Petersburg for the titled and wealthy where we meet several key players from the Bezukhovs and Kuragins.  Then we move on to Moscow to a party at the Rostovs and a death watch at the Bezukhovs.  And finally we end up in Bald Hills where the Bolkonskys live and the young Prince has brought his pregnant bride.

Is it confusing?  Yes, especially at first.  There are a lot of people with similar names. Who knew there were so many princes?  And there is quite a bit of French (of the 1215 pages, 2% is in French) that is translated at the bottom of the page and there are 53 references to the Notes in the back of the book just in part one.  So there’s lots of flipping.  But as the story gets moving and some of the people become more recognizable it becomes easier to read.  Just a small learning curve 🙂

Is it boring?  No!  I was never bored and I was interested in all of the characters and how they all fit together.  I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it.

Prince Andrei Nikolayevich Bolkonsky…We meet the little Prince at the Petersburg party where he expresses his dislike of his wife and his friendship for Pierre.  Here’s his first physical description…”of medium height, a rather handsome young man with well-defined and dry features.”   And this is our first taste of his personality at that party “he not only knew everyone in the drawing room, but was also  so sick of them that it was very boring, the face of his pretty wife seemed to be the one he was most sick of.”  He is fed up with society (and his wife), finding it empty.  He takes a position in the military and on his way to war he takes his pregnant wife to his father and sister in Bald Hills.  He is very unhappy, but he is smart and insightful.  I like him.

A little about Natasha Rostov…We meet the precocious 13-year-old at the party held in honor of her name day, which she shares with her mother.  This is her first description…”dark-eyed, big-mouthed, not beautiful, but lively girl.” and this is a description her personality, “inconceivable boldness and adroitness…both smart and pert”  She is in love with Boris Drubetskoy.  She is charming and comes from a very close-knit and supportive family.  I can’t help but like her.

A very little about Princess Maria Bolkonsky… We first meet Marie when her brother brings his pregnant wife to the family estate where she lives with her overbearing father.  A few words that were used to describe her or her actions…timid, fearful, sickly, unattractive, sad, frightened.  I know she is scared of her father, her best friend is Julie Karagin, she loves her brother, and she is very religious.  I feel more sorry for her than anything, but I don’t know her very well yet.

I’m having a good time with Tolstoy so far.  Want to know what Molly thinks and meet the characters she’s hanging out with?  Click on over… She covering overweight Pierre (seriously, it’s mentioned just as often as he is!), jealous Sonya, handsome Prince Nikolai, and beautiful Helene.