In honor of reaching the half-way point of War & Peace this week, I thought I'd share a snapshot of the state of my copy of the book. To continue to show the pristine, fresh from the store photo would be a disservice to the truth here. So there it is - my book in its current condition. I had a few incidents of a leaky water bottle in my gym bag so the pages are a bit rumpled. Believe it or not, the reading has been more Peace than War thus far, so I fear for what it might look like when I'm finished with the battles. Anyway, the peaceful time has brought us lots of love. Did you ever watch the TV show Soap with Billy Crystal? Where they spoofed soap operas? That's kind of how I've felt in the past week's reading. Andrei falls for Natasha, who used to love Boris, who is getting intimate with Helene, whose brother Anatole was shot down by Maria, whose friend Julie is now engaged to Boris, who used to date Natasha, who ditches Andrei for Anatole, etc. etc. etc. Oh alright. I'll use my core characters to clarify...
Helene is an evil, evil little witch. She has convinced her husband Pierre to acknowledge their marriage exists and now she is the most important lady in high society. She is beautiful, rich and has powerful connections. Everyone thinks she is intelligent and witty, a real treasure. Only Pierre seems to recognize that she is not a genius and only uses people to get what she wants from them - a real gem. And when she gets bored, she helps her equally attractive brother, Anatole, hook up with the young Natasha who just so happens to be happily engaged. Anatole is secretly married to a girl he took advantage of years before and abandoned. Helene seems to thoroughly enjoy setting up her carousing brother with the unsuspecting and naive Natasha. And she has no remorse for breaking up a would be wedding in the process. As Pierre tells her, "wherever you are, there is depravity and evil."
Pierre got tired of his Freemason world when he realized not only did no one listen to his lofty ideas, they only wanted his funding. Plus, he was having a hard time getting over his vices. So he went back to his wife for a change of scenery and turned himself over to the society world of drinking, gambling and women. But all this did was make him even more unhappy. He is bored, surrounded by a world he doesn't fit into. There seem to be two people who he has always had a special bond with - Andrei and Natasha. He helps to get them together, and although he is jealous by the happiness their engagement brings, he is glad for them. Which is why he goes ballistic on his brother-in-law, Anatole, when he finds out Anatole tried to trick Natasha into eloping with him and was the reason she called off her engagement to Andrei. Pierre is beginning to think all women are nothing but trouble and he feels for his buddy Andrei. Pierre needs to find something to do with himself and get out of this depressive rut he's in before he drives himself crazy trying to fix everyone else's problems.
After hiding away with his regiment, avoiding the real world during a time of peace and inaction, Nikolai was called home by his family who is going broke fast. They have been living beyond their means and ignoring the signs of bankruptcy. It seems that Nikolai isn't any better at finances than his old man however, since all he does when he comes home is revel in the pageantry and adrenaline of the hunt, along with his dad. So after his sister Natasha gets engaged they need to come up with something for a dowry ASAP. So after downsizing a few estates, Nikolai's mom tells him that their last chance for security is for him to marry a wealthy girl. My mimbo Nickie-boy finally stands up to his mama and tells her there is no way in hell he's going to marry for money when everyone knows damn well that his orphan cousin Sonya, whom his parents have raised as their own daughter, is his true love. I must say, I was stunned by Nikolai's choice here. While everyone else is engaging in loveless marriages and passionate affairs, Nikolai is electing the honorable path of true love (never mind the kissing cousins dealio). And shaking off his mama's boy mantra in the process.
Sweet Sonya is quiet, shy, moral and a beauty. She is also the most patient person in Russia. Here she sits, waiting and waiting for Nikolai to come back from war. She has turned down a proposal, waiting for Nikolai's heart to come around. And then she waits for him to recognize the great catch of a woman that she is - still waiting for him right under his nose. When the family gets all dressed up at the holidays in whimsical outfits and visits another nearby estate on a brilliant wintry night, she gains confidence hiding behind her costume, blossoming into a bolder personality that catches Nikolai's eye and lassos his heart once and for all. I hope he doesn't let her down.
This roller coaster of love, deception and heartbreak is hard to keep track of sometimes. So to help things resonate better and to more easily keep track of my thoughts to share with you, I mark up my book. With a pen. All over. I know that is blasphemy to many of you. But it is how I roll. It gives the book a taste of my own character. Some day, if someone else is motivated to pick up my copy and give it a go, they may be intrigued by my personal notations.
They may be distracted.
They may think I was drunk (hey - you try underlining while on an elliptical).
But I guarantee every now and then, they will laugh.
Hop on over to Stacy's where I am sure she treats her book better, even if her dog Max gets his paws on it from time to time. I'm sure she'll be sharing how Andrei is taking things after Natasha called off their engagement, whether Natasha is misguided or mean, how Andrei's sister Maria did or didn't help the situation, and if she thinks we're ever going to see Nikolai's former Captain Denisov again now that Russia is on the brink of war with France again.
- Intro. to Readalong - War - What Is It Good For?
- Volume 1, Part 1 - Love & Peace & Inheritance
- Volume 1, Parts 2 & 3 - I'm A Lover, Not A Fighter
- Volume 2, Parts 1 & 2 - Who Needs A Battle When You Can Have A Duel?