Thursday, April 15, 2010

ON BOOKS ~ This Is The End, My Only Friend, The End...

For the last 2 months Stacy and I have been taken on a journey by Leo. And we have tried to bring you along for the ride. I hope that our summaries showed enough of the story and characters to entertain and inspire you to read outside of the box yourself some day. Classics aren't for the sophisticated, uber smart or stodgy. They are for lovers of good books. Who knew that a Russian epic, heavy enough to use for strength training and long enough to use for plenty of kindling, would end up being part delicious soap opera, part reflection on life and part history lesson?

It was really enjoyable and I did not feel as if I was slogging through it or wishing I could be reading something else. I really enjoyed my time with these characters and their maturity during times of war and peace. I found myself reading online discussions about the book after I had finished. Which generally means that I am sorry to have finished and crave more connection with the tale. I have given this a 4 out of 5 star rating on Goodreads. A 5 was not possible only because I found Tolstoy's never ending dissertation about his personal philosophy of what moves people to act in the last 40 pages of his Epilogue to be insufferable. All of the other 1160 pages were terrific. So without further ado, are you ready to find out who hooked up with who and who got dissed? Here's how it ended...

Still dead. Which opened up the door for her estranged hubby's happiness.

Previously, we found Pierre at the mercy of the insanity of love when he came across Natasha and wanted to marry her. Well, this marriage did indeed take place within the year. From the very beginning of Natasha's young adulthood she had always taken a liking to Pierre. He was different from all the rest. He may not have been the most handsome or adept but he was always genuine and kind. And so after falling for looks, and then for romance, she ended up with a true family man. And someone that had known her all along, through her petulant days and flirtatious self-centered beauty, to a woman who had known him all along too. Known him through his aimless wanderings, high society blunderings, knee-jerk causes and eventual recognition that acceptance brings joy. They have lots of kids whom Pierre dotes upon, showering with love and presents. He and Natasha become that married couple who know each other's thoughts and complete each other's sentences. She has him wrapped around her finger and on a short leash. He seems to get a lot of crap for this, but knows that his life with her, though not free, is the happiest he will ever be.

It isn't long after Nikolai's sister's wedding to Pierre that their father dies, leaving the family once and for all in financial ruin. Nikolai abandons his military post and comes home to care for his mother in their rented apartment - having sold off the beloved family estate. He is cold personally, miserable and seems to have given up - feeling that he had his time for happiness and now all of that is behind him. He seems a lot like Prince Andrei did for a long time - all business, no pleasure - brooding away his days. His new brother-in-law Pierre, whom he has never liked very much, loans him some money to help out. His mother keeps trying to marry him off to Prince Andrei's rich sister, Maria. But he resents the need to marry for money. He only wants to marry for love. But he forgets that he has tender feelings for Maria - until she calls him on them.

Maria comes to pay respects to Nikolai and his mother for the loss of his father. She had become close to their family while her brother died under their roof and in Natasha's care. So when she sees Nikolai not resembling the dashing, full of life handsome babe that she fell for earlier in the war, she knows something is up. She realizes it is his pride, now that he is truly poor and she is not. So she tells him it is selfish to deny her of a friendship when she has no one left in the world. That gets his attention and BAM - the sparks fly like never before.

These two get married as well and Nikolai comes full circle from the spoiled brat wondering how any enemy could hate him when he is so awesome, to a farmer in the country avoiding the high society balls that he loved. Where previously he couldn't balance the books to save his father's finances, he now becomes a successful and respected land owner, able to pay off all of his father's debt.

He and Maria have kids of their own, although he prefers them once they are beyond the newborn stage. His little girl Natasha is the apple of his eye - much as his younger sister was growing up. Speaking of his sister, they invite her to stay with them while Pierre is away on business, and when Pierre returns, they keep them around living with them for a while longer.

Nikolai and Pierre are now best friends - probably since they are such family men these days and don't get out much. But Pierre is bitten with a new political rising bug and Nikolai is against any type of rebellious action. Still butting heads.

Well. Leo was not kind to Sonya. When Nikolai returned from the war, he and Sonya lived under the same roof helping his mom out. He never knew that her letter freeing him from his proposal to her was in jest - that she didn't expect Prince Andrei to die and not marry Natasha, leaving Nikolai free to marry Andrei's sister Maria. Sonya watches Nikolai transform from self-sacrificing misery to love with Maria. And lucky Sonya - newly married Nikolai and Maria bring her along to live with them and care for dear old mom.

Maria knows about Sonya's past with Nikolai. She knows there must be resentment. She even talks to Natasha about it. Natasha tells Maria not to worry - that Sonya's lot in life is to suffer so others can be happy and free. Or something to that effect. Other than descriptions of Sonya tossing dagger eyes Maria's way here and there, we never hear from her directly again. But I'm guessing she's not thrilled with Natasha's interpretation. And neither was I. She got screwed. But we'll never know why she took it. My only complaint with the story's perspective.

I found it funny that we were left with 2 couples living under the same roof, consisting of people who initially did not like each other. Nikolai thought Pierre was a bumbling fool and didn't like Pierre dissing his army buddy - which led to Pierre's duel with Dolokhov. Maria did not like Natasha's attitude and personality when Natasha was first engaged to Maria's brother, Andrei. And of course Sonya didn't like Maria for stealing her man Nikolai - yet there she is living with them all.

The novel ends with Prince Andrei's orphaned son, also named Nikolai, enraptured with his "Uncle" Pierre - who was orphaned himself as a young man. He is not a fan of his real Uncle Nikolai. But he sees Pierre as heroic and exciting, given his capture during the war and his close relation with young Nikolai's father (whom he doesn't remember personally) before he died. Teenaged Nikolai is caught up in Pierre and his Uncle Nikolai's discussions of government and uprising, much as his Uncle Nikolai was at his age. Yet Pierre is his connection to the father he never knew, and so his dreams are to emulate Pierre and make his father proud. Which is exactly what his father spent much of his own life trying to do. Full circle. Just as life is now, and will always be. That's why War & Peace works on so many levels. It is relatable, honest and the prose can bring you to your knees.

Stacy has her final thoughts and can give you more insight about the ladies Maria & Natasha. As well as what ever happened with Denisov. Thanks for following along each week. I hope you've had as much fun as we have. And thanks to Stacy for getting herself into the position of needing to read this book this year. Without her, I likely would have continued to put it off - which would have deprived me of a masterful tale.

Related Posts:
  • Volume 2, Parts 3, 4 & 5 - Soap


Margot at Joyfully Retired said...

You and Stacy did a terrific job on relaying the story of this epic novel to us. I almost feel like I've read the story. At least I know who all the main characters are and the plot. Thanks for reading the book for me.

Candy Minx said...

Oh I love this novel and what a fantastic set of breakdowns you have put together.

Mary said...

Ok, I've copied all the links including today's and will keep them for reference when I read this (and I WILL). Thanks for a wonderful regular post. What's next???

Kathleen said...

Love the headline today. It makes me want to see the movie again or just think about my crush I have had on Jim Morrison forever. Anyway, I digress. You are braved to have finished this book. I will get around to reading this one day!

cardiogirl said...

Now this is the sort of Cliffs Notes version I can get behind. Awesome retelling and since I've never read (and I know I never will) I thank you for breaking it down.

Lastly, you know I love the tag -- War - What Is It Good For? Excellent.