War and Peace Readalong: Vol. 1

Friday, January 14, 2011


Welcome to my first post for the readalong hosted by A Literary Odyssey. I made it through the first volume of War & Peace (about 300 pages), which I have a feeling was the hardest part. So far I really am loving it.

Tolstoy's writing is wonderful. Using his unique blend of historical fact and complex characters he creates an epic story. In the first volume there's a lot of French dialogue, complicated names, war scene and soirees, but I think that once I'm invested in the book and know who each of the characters are, it will be easier to chug along. I did find myself frequently referring to the family tree chart. The tricky part is that each character is known by about 5 names!

One of my favorite sections is where Princess Marya's father is talking to her about a marriage proposal from Anatole. He says, "I hold to the rule that a girl has the full right to choose. And I give you freedom. Remember one thing: the happiness of your life depends on your decision." (p.230)

I wouldn't have expected that from a male author in the 19th century. But I should have remembered, this is the man who wrote Anna Karenina, the story of a woman who falls in love with someone who is not her stuffy husband. Still, I loved that her father gave her the freedom to choose who she wanted to marry.

On the flip side of that same coin is Pierre. He is sweet, good-natured, etc., but his "falling in love" with Helene made my respect for his character plummet. As he notices how beautiful she has become, he begins to justify his previous bad opinions of her. He tries to get to know her better, but truly learns nothing that should change his first opinion.

"But she's stupid, I've said myself that she's stupid," he thought. (p.207)

"Was I mistaken before, or am I mistaken now? No, she's not stupid; no, she's a wonderful girl!" (p.209)

I understand that he's shuffled into this marriage by those around him, but still, grow a backbone! I'm hoping we'll get the chance to watch his character mature as the book progresses.

So onward through the next 979 pages. I can't wait.

8 comments:

Brenna said...

I give you so much credit for tackling this book. Also, this is the first review I have read (or really a review of a section) that has made me interested in the novel. Thanks for that. I always thought it was just about war.

Peggy said...

I'm about 1/3 of the way through and I don't think Pierre will ever grow a backbone. I'd love to be wrong about him!

Kristi said...

The characters are fascinating, aren't they? I'm so glad you're enjoying it. I'm finding that is much easier and more engaging than I had expected.

I feel bad for poor Pierre. I don't think he was prepared for the position he was thrown into when his father died. It's so sad that he doesn't have anyone trustworthy to help guide him but only people who are manipulating him. Prince Vassily is so sleezy!

I do love how Mayra's father allowed her to choose whether to marry Anatole. I think she made the right choice. Her piety kind of grates on me though.

Carey said...

Although I was also delighted to hear Marya's father give her a choice in the matter of her marriage, I couldn't help but wonder if there was a selfish motive to his articulating that "a girl has the full right to choose." Was he saying this because he believed it or because he wanted to somehow influence Marya to stay with him, which was what he really wanted. Perhaps both things are true in this case.

Michelle (my books. my life.) said...

So glad you're liking it. It's definitely a challenge but well worth it.

Avid Reader said...

Brenna - That's so good to hear. I wasn't sure what to expect either and I've been pleasantly surprised.

Peggy - The farther I get, the less hope I have for him.

Kristi - I agree about both Pierre and Mayra, one is clueless and the other is annoying. It's interesting to see their stories unfold.

Carey - Her father certainly benefitted by her remaining at home. I love that the characters are complex enough that we can discusss their motivations. It's the sign of a good book.

Michelle - I love it when a challenging book really is rewarding in the end.

Just Mom said...

My plan was to do this but not start until February so it would count towards the Chunkster challenge - think there's any chance I can get caught up?!

Avid Reader said...

Just Mom - War and Peace in 28 days. That's tough, but if you have the time you should definitely do it!