Book reviews, musings and waffle from a British lit addict

War & Peace Read-along: Week Four, Books Six and Seven

What a weird week!  Against all of my expectations, I managed to squeeze in a bit of The Mime Order at the end of the week.  That was in part due to the fact that I got slammed by a monstrous cold in the middle of the week and curbed my usually quite anti-social working hours in an effort to not die.  So I left my desk at a reasonable hour on two evenings and sought refuge under my duvet with Tolstoy.  Book Six was a great distraction – gossipy goodness.  Book Seven was just weird.  I very nearly resigned myself to being behind for a week or tow and reached for the next Wheel of Time book.  Instead, I just decided to skim over the hunting and the singing and the hanky waving until I was back in comfortably scandalous territory.  It saved both my sanity and my read-along effort.  No regrets.
OH. Also, this week saw me realise that my translation has taken liberties with the chapter lengths AND gotten creative by giving them names 😐  I merrily texted Hanna about what I thought was chapter 5 and said something about it being called Pierre’s diary.  Which was met with much surprise both because apparently other editions’ chapters don’t have handy titles to tell you what’s going on or where you are but also because Pierre’s diary didn’t show up in Hanna’s edition until Chapter 9.  I nearly ditched my edition in outrage.  Why on Earth would chapter lengths need to vary?!  It makes no sense!  Just translate the words, don’t move them all around!  I didn’t ultimately because I’m enjoying my edition chapter liberties notwithstanding and I think that switching nearly halfway would be confusing if the names were tweaked.  So I’ve forgiven my edition.  Just about…*grumble grumble*
Prompt time!
1) Do you feel that the tone of the novel changed this week?
What?  The crazy hunting interlude followed by dinner and dancing at a fake relative and some ridiculous prancing about in bizarre sounding costumes?  Nah.  Seriously, though, I did not at all care for those chapters.  I’ve been wanting more Rostovs all along so I guess it’s a case of ‘be careful what you wish for’.  The hunting in particular was quite tedious indeed.  If my crazy ass edition is to be believed, Tolstoy went off hunting either while or just before he wrote it (I forget which) and then decided to write it in.  Great work whoever invited him hunting.
2) Do you think that the story is uniquely Russian, or could it have been set somewhere else?
If we ignore Napoleon for a moment and things like the different meaning of ‘prince/princess’, it could be anywhere.  People are people, I suppose.  I totally agree with Hanna, though, in that the social divide seems extreme given that it’s the early 1800s.
3) How about Andrey and Natasha’s nuptials? Will they ever get married and do you think it will work out?
How random was that little turn of events?!  The grand ball was one of my favourite chapters so far – seeing characters’ impressions of other characters was really interesting and I liked the more spontaneous, fun Andrew.  I thought that being Natasha’s fiancé was going to make him mellow and then his father was a prat about the whole thing and I don’t have a good feeling about where their story is going.  Either he’s going to end up dead from the wound that seems to keep opening up (gross) or he’s going to find someone else to marry abroad.  Or Natasha is because she’s desperately worried that she’ll age immeasurably over the course of one year (I’m not really a Natasha fan…).  Happily ever after would surprise me.
4) Could Rostov have done more to help out his parents with their financial situation?
Nicholas Rostov’s a joke.  I feel so, so sorry for the senior Count Rostov.  He knows that he’s crap with money and that he’s ruining the estate and is basically begging his son for help and all Nicholas can manage is a bit of a scrap with a man that may or may not be a bit of a crook.  I don’t think I’d go so far as to say that he should marry Julie just because she’s rich but at least do something.  It wasn’t quite clear to me whether he had in fact been sending home any of his army salary.  I hope he was.  Less snogging your cousin, more helping your father, Nicholas.
5) How do you feel about the lengthy hunting descriptions? Did you read the whole thing?
If anybody read all of those chapters, they deserve a medal.  I have absolutely no interest in hunting and I gave up pretty much as soon as I realised there weren’t going to be any heart to hearts and it literally was just going to be a lot of riding around on horses after wolves.  I’d take military descriptions over hunting shenanigans any day.
Four weeks in!  And next week we’ll be over half way through!  Or at least, I think we will be.  Who knows what’s going on with my edition?!  See you next week, read-alongers.