War and Peace Readalong: Vol 2

Monday, January 31, 2011

This is my second post (here's the first) for the War and Peace read-along hosted by A Literary Odyssey.

The book really kicked into high gear for me in Volume II, particularly in Part 2. There's dancing at balls, attempted suicide, engagements, scorned lovers, financial problems, even a duel. Thank goodness Tolstoy didn't try to cram all of that into the title (see Better book Titles version below).

Pierre finds his life in chaos after rumors about his wife prompt him to duel Dolokhov. The duel solves nothing for him, because it leaves him feeling more bereft than ever. I loved the description of Pierre's thought process during this time. It was just perfect to me...

"It was as if the main screw in his head, which held his whole life together, had become stripped. The screw would not go in, would not come out, but turned in the same groove without catching hold, and it was impossible to stop turning it." (p.347)

That chapter goes on to describe Pierre's meeting with a Freemason and his religious conversion. For some reason this chapter just hit the mark for me. Between Pierre's despair, which becomes religious fervor, and the Freemason's descriptions, I was captivated.

"The highest wisdom and truth is like the most pure liquid, which we want to receive ourselves. Can I receive pure liquid in an impure vessel and then judge its purity? Only by purifying myself inwardly can I keep the liquid I receive pure to some degree." (p.352).

Outside of Pierre's world much is happening. Prince Andrei and Natasha get engaged, but his father insists on a year apart before they can wed. Left alone, with her family, Natasha is seduced by the vapid Anatole, who convinces her to elope (after failing to get Marya to marry him). Luckily Sonya, seeking only Natasha's happiness, thwarts their plan and Pierre (unexpectedly) shows Natasha a sweet affection.

I was thrilled when Nikolai finally got his act together and realized that Sonya was what he wanted. That sweet moment, when they run to each other, it reminded me of the final scene in When Harry Met Sally, only better, (There's got to be some rule about comparing Russian literature to Meg Ryan rom-coms, but oh well).

Obviously it's not a perfect book. I think I zone out a bit during the battle scenes, the characters seem to fall in "love" with someone new every five minutes, etc., but I'm loving the book and 600 pages in I'm excited about the rest.

Top photo by moi, bottom from Better Book Titles.


Kristi said...

I thought the war scenes in this volume were boring compared to the previous volume. I'm glad there weren't as many.

I love the Better Book Title for this one. I would add to that "and proposals". There were so many in this section.

I also loved the scene between Nikolai and Sonya. I know some people think she's boring, but I love her steadfastness. She knows what she wants and is not willing to compromise. She is the exact opposite of the flighty Natasha.

Melissa (Avid Reader) said...

There were so many proposals! I agree about Sonya. I love the comparison of Sonya and Natasha to the Dashwood sisters from Sense and Sensibility, that's exactly how they are!

Kath said...

I love the alternative titles book cover! I'm keeping that in mind for when I'm further on in my reading!