Wednesday, March 31, 2010

ON BOOKS ~ Death Becomes Her...

Stacy & I took a luxurious week of brevity with Tolstoy. Life was busy for us both so we were only able to make a small amount of time for old Leo. But no matter. He still found a way to wow us. This week's reading was all about Life and Death - the profound personal experience each of them are to us all. What each of them mean, and how they are viewed. And the impact they have. Here is how my core characters were impacted...

Ding, dong, the witch is dead! Helene was so overwhelmed by her Count juggling that she had a heart attack (or, per juicier rumors, OD'd on pills) and died. Yup. Gonzo. High society enjoyed worrying about her health and felt appropriately sad for their loss - er, I mean, her family's loss. Her dad, Prince Vassily - the one who married her off to Pierre for the inheritance Vassily missed out on - seemed not all that surprised and this emotionally vacant family is running out of pages. Her death sets Pierre free. Free to act on his love for Natasha. Who just so happens to be reunited with her battle wounded ex-fiancee and Pierre's good buddy, Prince Andrei.

Pierre may be free of Helene, but he is far from free in every other sense. He has been arrested by the invading French, tried, pardoned from execution and held as a prisoner of war. He did not understand that he was pardoned since he was led to the execution site along with his fellow prisoners. He watched innocent peasants murdered by unwilling enemy riflemen, thinking all along that he was next. And then, he lost all faith in humanity and God. The murderers didn't want to kill those men. The men didn't want to die. And yet, it happened. And no one felt good about it. Pierre suffered from what looks a lot like PTSD - Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Until he met a friendly peasant Russian soldier in the POW barracks which has given him a bit of a moral compass - proving to him that love in mankind does exist, has the power to heal and can provide a reason for living. His new friend loves to spout off one cliche after another, but he treats whomever he encounters with kindness without hesitation, albeit without lasting personal feeling. Which is perfect for Pierre - teetering in the balance of faith.

My stud muffin cavalry man is given an assignment to head away from the heady battles that Pierre and Prince Andrei experienced in order to re-stock horses for his regiment. He was thrilled to get away from the dregs of camp and back into the world of society. It wasn't the big city, but the big city Moscow members have moved their life to the smaller cities, infusing the outskirts with a taste of the privileged. And Nikolai was enjoying himself fully, flirting with married and single women while showing off his dance moves. Until he is reintroduced to Maria, Prince Andrei's sister whom he previously helped rescue from harm's way at her family's estate in the country. Sparks fly - maybe. They both feel love - a comfortable state of being when they are near. They behave as their true selves together rather than putting on airs or succumbing to nervous instincts. Maria's strong sense of faith impacts Nikolai - making him recognize that theirs is a serious connection - not child's play. But he seems to also feel "eerie" whenever he thinks of her - like kissing your sister or something. I don't quite know what the heck he's feeling. But he wishes very strongly for his promise to marry Sonya to go away. Absence is not making his heart grow fonder.

Sonya sees the writing on the wall. She isn't getting anything but silence from Nikolai - no letters. His mother begs her to sacrifice her love for Nikolai so that he can marry Maria and restore the family's finances. Sonya feels terrible that she is keeping the family in ruins - the family that took her in as an orphan and raised her as their own. But she also is sick and tired of sacrificing. She has always been the good one. The one to turn down things of benefit to herself. Well, she just isn't going to do it anymore. Nikolai is all she has ever really wanted - he is the essence of her whole life.

Sonya sees that while Natasha has nursed Maria's brother Prince Andrei back to health from his battle wounds, he has forgiven Natasha for falling for another man while they were engaged. It is evident that when he recovers they will get married and that will make some society rule kick in that means Nikolai can't marry someone else in Andrei's family - i.e. Maria. I personally don't understand why that would be a no-no, when the cousins Sonya and Nikolai could possibly marry. But whatever. Sonya writes a very dramatic letter to Nikolai releasing him from his promise to marry her. This gets Nikolai's mom off her back, makes her look good to his family, and won't be a problem since Nikolai can't marry Maria anyway when her brother Andrei recovers and marries Nikolai's sister Natasha after all. So back to Sonya Nikolai will come. Happily ever after. Except that Andrei screws up Sonya's plan. Big time.

How? Hop over to Stacy's to find out. She's got all the details on Natasha & Andrei, as well as whether Maria feels eerie about Nikolai too or something more romantic.

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Anonymous said...

First, Helene got what she deserved. I thought Tolstoy implied a few times that she had an abortion. Take a look again and tell me what you think.
And poor Sonya. She finally tried to do something clever and look what happened! I didn't understand why Nikolai and Maria wouldn't be able to marry either.
It was a nice short break, now on to some real reading :)

Unknown said...

Wow! Is that the halfway mark I see? Yowza! I applaud you for making the twists and turns so appealing. You might convince me yet.

Margot said...

This section seems very full of little love dramas. All this stuff, if true, would not endear me to the upper crust of Russian society.

Keep reading. I'm enjoying it.

The Bumbles said...

Stacy - I just had a chance to go back and I had highlighted this particular section which I think speaks directly to your assumption of abortion:

"Everyone knew very well that the lovely countess's illness came from the inconvenience of marrying two husbands at once, and that the Italian's (doctor) treatment consisted of removing that inconvenience...Officially, in large gatherings, everyone said that Countess Bezukhov had died of a terrible attack of (angina), but in intimate circles details were recounted of how (the Italian doctor) had prescribed Helene small doses of some medicine to produce a certain effect (which she then OD'd on out of torment from no response from Pierre and her new hubby's suspicion that she was preggo)."