Sunday, February 28, 2010

Volume I, Book II, Chapter IX

Bonaparte's army is defeating the Russian Austrian forced. On October 30th, Kuzutov defeats the French, and actually makes them retreat, after two weeks of retreating themselves.

And who gets to deliver this news in Brünn to the Minister of War? None other than our heroic Prince Andrei. He has been serving under Austrian General Schmidt, who is killed in the battle. Andrei's horse was shot out from him and he was slightly grazed by a bullet, so he gets to be a messenger, which is an important step and acknowledgement. He spends the trip dreaming of the battle, and how happy it made him. He stops and sees some wounded soldiers on a transport, and gives them some money. I love this heroic parenthetical - "despite his apparently slight build, Prince Andrei could endure physical fatigue far better than the strongest people." For some reason that struck me as over-the-top - like, of course he can! He's the hero.

Anyhow, he's excited and daydreaming about the great reception he'll get. He's brought into the Minister's office, who just wants the news. He's very sad about Schmidt being killed, but happy that the French have been defeated; not happy that their General Mortier wasn't captured. He asks Andrei to stay to speak to the sovereign emperor, but more than likely tomorrow. Now he's despondent and feels like his happiness has gone, and the battle feels far away.

So Andrei really badly wants to be a hero. I wonder what will happen to all of the men in this book, who look at war as heroic? We were watching the Jean Renoir film "La Grande Illusion" last night, and it struck me as an interesting coda to this - the aristocrats in that movie are on their last legs. They know it. And WWI was probably the last war that was so civilized. There's a detail in here about the sick and wounded being left on the other side of the Danube with the enemy to take care of them, and a letter from Kuzutov entrusing them to the humaneness of the enemy. Can't even imagine that at this point, can we?

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Volume I, Book II, Chapter VIII

We're definitely in the war. It's all very exciting but boils down to this - Rostov's first day under fire. The Russians (our hussars, our cossacks), are in a river valley and the French are approaching. Orders are given to burn the bridge from yesterday. There is confusion about the order, and Zherkov has shown up again to give it. Nikolai ends up riding next to Bogdanych, and worrying about their earlier encounter. There is a German accented Colonel who is slow to speak and a little passive aggressive not wanting to follow orders he hasn't explicitly been given, or that aren't given correctly. So there are a lot of other things going on. Suffice it to say, they blow up the bridge, and there are two injuries and one casualty. It ends with the colonel joyfully saying that one soldier was "killed on the spot" with obvious joy.

I will add to this tomorrow I'm sure when I'm more awake. Tired at the moment, but there's a beautiful paragraph at the beginning of the chapter describing the feeling of going into battle.

And here it is:

"One step beyond that line, reminiscent of the line separating the linving from the dea, and it's the unkown, suffeing and deat. And what is there? who is there? there, beyond this filed, and the tree, and the roof lit by the sun? No one knows and you would like to know; and you're afraid to cross that line, and would like to cross it; and you know that sooner ot later you will have to corss it and find out what is there on the other side of that line, as you will inevitably find out what is there on the other side of death. And you're strong, healthy, cheerful and excited, and surrounded by people just as strong and excitedly animated." So if he does not think it, every man feels how finds himself within sight of an enemy, and this feeling gives a particular brilliance and joyful sharpness of impression to everything that happens in those moments.

I love that he finds a way to go into 2nd person - it's such a shift in tone and immediacy. It just struck me - I was actually confused and thrown for a second, and then it tracked that he was in the head of the soldier. I can't imagine that rush, but it seems like he has some experience of it. And it definitely animates the writing in this section - sharp impressions.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Volume I, Book II, Chapter VII

This is just brilliant. It's like a symphony.

So we're on the bridge with Nesvitsky. He's crushed into the railing, and the enemy is shooting a cannon. The bridge is a crush of people. The enemy is referred to as he. Having so many soldiers on the bridge, the whole first portion is overheard snippets of conversation. There's too much of it to go into, but it's all tempo - there are people talking, crushing of bodies, a cannonball whizzes by...

and then whoosh, there's a small pause in the action, when all slows down to let a wagon with a German family pass. Everyone is quiet, and all focus is on the young German girl. Time and noise seem to slow down. Then they pass and it all speeds up again.

Excellently, we've already been acquainted with him, so when we hear "Nesvitsky! You ghrascal!" we know who it is. It's Vasya! Yay! And he's dressed up. Nesvitsky mentions that he's not drunk, and he says they don't even give him time to drink. Then there's this great exchange-

"What a dandy you are today!" said Nesvitsky, looking over his new dolman and saddle cloth.
Denisov smiled, took from his pouch a handkerchief that gave off a smell of scent, and put it to Nesvitsky's nose.
"Have to be, I'm going into action! Shaved, bghrushed my teeth, and doused myself with scent."
I am loving Vasya Denisov and his jet black hair and r- swallowing. Makes me laugh.

Such a romantic idea of war! We're fighting - I should look my best! And when the infantry "gazed at the clean, foppish hussars going past them in order, with that special feeling of ill will, alienation, and mockery with which different branches of the military meet each other" we get more general soldier quotes. And a great detail that the military view other branches that way. Must be the same everywhere. Probably not endless walking, wagons, and horses, but I'd imagine the talk sounds similar.

His orchestration of this is wonderful. The voices they speak with, what they speak of, are unexpected and make sense. He sets a scene with people, and everything comes from them. Such a great read.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Volume I, Book I, Chapter VI

Mostly Nesvitsky and the General. Two bridges have been blown up, one on the River Inn in Braunau, and the other on the Traun in Linz. The armies (our troops, as T reminds us which side we're on and where our sympathies lie) are somewhere at the convergence of the Enns and the Danube. The rain has stopped: "the bridge, was now suddenly covered by a muslin curtain of slanting raining, then suddenly widened out, and in the sunlight objects became visible and clear in the distance, as if freshly varnished."

Nesvitsky, for want of a better word, is shooting the shit with the officers, as they sit on the ground eating little pies and Doppelkummel, which is some kind of almond, anise liquer (I just found this out). Sampling of the conversation while looking toward the enemy on a far outcropping:

"No,but what I'd like [Netsvitsky] added, chewing a little pie with his handsome, moist mouth, "is to climb in there."
He pointed to the convent with its towers, visible on the hilltop. He smiled, his eyes narrowed and lit up.
"wouldn't that be nice gentlemen?"
The officers laughed.
"At least to put a fright into those little nuns. There are some Italian girls, young ones, they say. Really, I'd give five years of my life!"
"They must be bored, too," an officer, a bolder one, said laughing.

Here's his brilliance - this in the midst of this battle scene. The General gives the hussars orders to go blow up a bridge, since he's waiting for the enemy to move. We don't get caught up in strategy, though, we just spend some time with these guys as they wait and shoot the breeze, savoring pies. And that mouth thing - he must have been such a sensualist - "handsome, moist mouth".

I'm a little concerned for Nikolai. I don't know that he's going to scrape out of this alive, though if this is a romance he could. We'll see.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Volume I, Book II, Chapter V

Not much to this one, short and sweet. Staff Captain Kirsten is talking with Rostov, and telling him he must apologize to Bogdanych (Telyanin), since it seems he's called Rostov a liar (even though everyone knows he's telling the truth). Kirsten said it's all fine and good for him, he's new, somebody's adjutant, but some of them are in it for life and it will look bad if one of them is accused of stealing. Nikolai feels bad and is near tears and says it's all his fault, but he will not apologize. They say that Bogdanych will make his life hell.

Just then Zherkov enters and tells them that Mack has surrendered and they're on the march. He says that Mack complained about him and so he was sent away to tell them they have marching orders. And we know why he was offensive.

Nikolai tearing up reminds me of how emotional the Russians seem to be in literature and plays - yelling, crying, a completely different culture. Highly emotional. I'll have to keep that in mind when reading. It seems a little melodramatic, but I suppose it was true of the time.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Volume I, Book II, Chapter IV

Ach, mehr Kapitel. Ah so, jetzt im Deutsch. Cuz now we're in Germany. And I found out more of what a hussar is, since it was confusing how it was being used for soldiers who I didn't think were either fancily dressed or Hungarian. Horseriders! Thanks to Wikipedia, I learned all about it (or as much as I was willing to skim).

So the chapter opens with Nikolai (Rostov, remember him?) dismounting his horse and going into the house he shares with the squadron commander Captain Denisov (Vasya). It's the same day, October 8th, as the defeat of Mack in the last chapter. But what with no internet and only horses, it's not clear news of the defeat has gotten to them. Nikolai is in a good mood after a nice ride. He has a nice German exchange with a German farmer - everyone loves Nikiolai. Great passage:

Though there was no particular reason for rejoicing either for the German, who was cleaning his cowshed, or for Rostov, who had gone for hay with his section, the two men looked at each other with happy delight and brotherly love, shook their heads as a sign of mutual love, and smiling, went their way--"

He's a junker, but still a Count, and is treated as such. Denisov has not returned from his night gambling, which according to his lackey means that he did poorly. He comes in, and is a bit of a comedy from the get go. He's a small man with a red face, shining black eyes, and disheveled black mustaches and hair. He's gloomy for losing, and T does this great accent thing, since he swallows his r's: "Ah, ghreally! And I blew eveghrything last night, bghrother, like a son of a bitch...Such bad luck!....As soon as you left, it staghrted." I just find that entertaining. He calls Rostov "Dear heaghrt." And he says things like "Ghrubbish!" Hee.

Vasya gives Rostov his money to put under his pillow, and Rostov does while the Lieutenant no one likes comes over, who is called Telyanin. T describes him as behaving very well "but he was not liked, and Rostov especially could neither overcome nor conceal his causeless loathing for the man." [There seem to be certain characters who are just dis-likable from the start, like the Rostov's elder daughter, and he's just one of those characters. I can't even remember her name. Yikes, it really is time for a scorecard--you just know she's reappearing.]

Anyway, Telyanin comes in, leaves with Nikolai to show him how to shoe a horse he bought from Telyanin for too much money, and then leaves. Vasya looks for his money that Nikolai put under his pillow but can't find it. Vasya starts attacking his valet, but it occurs to Nikolai that Telyanin is the only who could have done it. He rides two miles to where he is, asks for his purse, and accuses him of stealing the money. IT's all very rash and exciting. And true. At first Telyanin denies it, but it becomes clear it's true. He crumples.

Rostov took the money, avoiding Telyanin's eyes, and, not saying a word, started out of the room. But at the door he stopped and came back.
'My God,' he said, with tears in his eyes,'how could you have done it?'
"Count...'said Telyanin, going up to the junker.
'DOn't touch me,' said Rostov, drawing back. 'If you need the money, take it.' He flung the purse at him and ran out of the tavern.


So Telyanin's a thief, Vasya's a drunk and gambler, and Nikolai is our fine, upstanding. That's what I get from this chapter. Nikolai will undoubtedly learn something from this. He's proud and young. I hope this entire book is not a fall from innocence for everyone involved. It's probably not, since T's too smart for this and the palette is too large, but this chapter felt like a silent film. A good one, but melodrama. But it's great - I like the social dramas a bit more than military strategy and he has great characters.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Volume I, Book II, Chapter III

More war. We're in with Kutuzov and the Austrian commander, and member of the Hofkreigsrath, talking strategy. Kuzutov is baiting the Austrian, saying that they would not need the Russians as their generals are so skillful, and that General Mack with his 70,000 men have surely already triumphed. Her reads a letter from Archduke Ferdinand (probably not to be confused with the Archduke Ferdinand whose assassination started WWI. Or Franz Ferdinand, which is a band). The letter is in German.


Now, he's writing in German, too. Kutuzov asks Andrei to gather up all the correspondence and compile it. Andrei, T tells us, is now humming along, satisfied to be doing "pleasant and interesting things. His face expressed more satisfaction with himself and those around him; his smile and glance were more cheerful and attractive". War agrees with him apparently.

Mack stumbles in, and we learn that he has actually been defeated. The entire army surrendered at Ulm. Andrei goes to his room to write his father, and sees Nesvitsky, and Zherkhov, who we met last chapter. (I think it may be time for a new scorecard)
Zherkov mock congratulates the generals as they pass by, and says that Mack just arrived with a small wound, in his head. The general angrily responds in German. Nesvitsky thinks it's funny and puts his arm around Andrei, who pushes him away. Nesvistky asks him what his problem is and he responds angrily, in French for emphasis, that 40,000 men have died and the allies have been destroyed, so there's nothing to laugh about. In French, since he's really angry. He chides Nesvitsky for laughing along, saying he should now better, and "onlyschoolboyscan have fun like that, "Prince Andrei added in Russian, pronouncing the word with a French accent, noticing that Zherkov was still within earshot."

Zherkov says nothing, turns and leaves.

It's clear he was just being a zherkov.

An interesting statement of Andrei's belief and views: "we're either officers serving our tsar and fatherland, and rejoice in our common successes and grieve in our common failures, or we're lackeys, who have nothing to do with their masters' doings".
It's definitely a monarchical was of looking at it, with some sense of entitlement, but it certainly is a way to feel more of use, which Andrei does. There's a bit about how people thought of him back home - he either liked one or didn't, and had no use for you if he didn't. Not the most well-liked. That looks like it's changing.

The battle strategy gets a little confusing, and T references previous battles and war heroes as well. Not people we're too familiar with now. I could use a primer on the War of 1812, the events leading up to it, and Russian, Austrian and French 17th and 18th century governmental structure. I suppose it will become clearer.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Volume I, Book II, Chapter II

Boy, this war stuff is going to be harder to keep interested in. Though still great writing, of course.

General Kutuzov (an actual historic figure) comes to inspect the troops. The Regimental Commander is so excited he bounces, which is funny while he is being mocked by one of the people in Kutuzov's retinue. One of the men is Prince Andrei Bolkonsky. With him is Nevitsky, a "tall staff officer, extremely fat, wiht a kind, smiling handsome face and moist eyes. Nevitsky is laughing at the man making fun of the commander. The General stops at Dolokhov, after Andrei reminds him he wanted to be reminded to take note of him. Dolokhov steps out and speaks to the General, although what the General said to him did not need a response. He wants to be given a chance to wipe out his guilt. The General doesn't say anything and walks away, as it didn't need to be said.

After the General leaves there's a chorus of soldier voices, talking about the war, events, etc. The Commander calls all the singers in front, and they begin to sing. We go back to Dolokhov, having a conversation with a hussar cornet Zherkov. It's awkward, and he tells Dolokhov if he wants anything, he can ask. DOlokhov says if he wants anything he'll take it himself. And he's not drinking or gambling until he gets promoted. Well, he's certainly driven.

We also have the Regimental Commander ask the drunken captain how Dolokhov is doing and his response is that his character "Comes over him...some days...he's clever, and learned, and kind. And then he's a beast. In Poland he all but killed a Jew, if you want to know..."

Not a great guy that Dolokhov. We'll see what he has to do with Andrei. I just think of green screen with this chapter, and film. It's like characters have dropped in on real life, with real Generals, but you realize the whole thing is conjecture against real historical events. Events which I'm sure will only get more confusing. And that soldier talk, all the snippets of dialogue, very filmic. Quite a scope.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Volume I, Book II, Chapter I

Okay, we're at war. In Austria. The company has marched 700 miles from Russia, twenty the night before. It's October 1805. Do I feel Waterloo coming on?

The regiment is told to dress for inspection, so they don't sleep all night, and the commander comes to inspect all 2,000 men. Just at that moment, a rider comes to explain that the orders were to have the soldiers look as badly as they did when they arrived (T tells us their dress uniforms are okay, but their shoes are in terrible shape) to prove that the Austrian battalions are not getting enough supplies.

They come back for inspection, and the Commander notices one soldier has a blueish greatcoat instead of black. He calls up the Captain, who tells him it's Dolokhov, who's been demoted. Dolokhov! We know Dolokhov. Remember - policeman tied to a bear in the river, drinking while hanging out a window. That Dolokhov. Of course, the Commander continued to review soldiers himself since "It was clear he that he like his own irritation and the he wanted to walk the length of the regiment and find more reasons for his wrath."

Of course, he comes across Dolokhov, and not only notices the coat, but that he's standing with one leg bent. Dolokhov fixes it, but when the Commander tells him to change it, he responds loudly that he is duty-bound to obey, but not to put up with insults. Wow. Then

"The eyes of the general and the soldier met. The general said nothing, angrily pulling down on his tight sash.
"Kindly change, I ask you," he said, walking away.

That Dolokhov. He intimidates everyone, it seems. He's either going to be a force for good, which I doubt, or a very challenging enemy for someone. Andrei's foil?

Either way, I love that they used to wear sashes into battle. That can't have been practical. Now we only see them at beauty pageants. How ornamental this army is.

Well, we are certainly at war.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Volume i, Book I, Chapter XXV

Andrei off to war. This chapter is Andrei's goodbyes. He has a long conversation with his sister, including his unhappiness. She's afraid to bring it up, and gets red and splotchy evenly.

Marya gives him an icon that their grandfather wore in battle, and makes him promise to wear it. He does. And then another kind of comic line, which I loved -- Andrei tellas Marya that he is not haappy, and his wife is not happy. Marya says he should pray for love, as God will give him the love he does not feel for his wife. Andrei responds, "Yes--there's always that!. Ha.

He goes to his wife, who is gossiping about someone in Petersburg, and a story he's heard five times. She's busy with her reticule and her needlework. He goes to say goodbye to his father, establishes that if he has a son he would like him to be raised there by his father. Then he tells his wife goodbye, and she faints. He slips out.

Marya is still religious, and it's great how she says her father is so impractical for not believing since the truth is so obvious. Looks like Liza (Lise) is going to be unhappy for a time when it suits her, and the old man will be gruff. We'll see about Andrei.

On to Part II!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Volume I, Book I, Chapter XXIV

Wow. I am actually one chapter away from finishing part One. Woohoo!

This is getting a little political, so I won't sum up, except to say that it's a bit of a pissing match over dinner with Andrei and his father. It's warm-hearted, and Andrei goads him to anger at one point, but he does seem to enjoy it.

T avoids the confusion by calling the old man prince and Andrei's wife the princess or young princess, while he calls Marya and Andrei by their name with a capital Prince or Princess in front every once in a while. Confusing. Perhaps that's why at the end of this chapter I thought "I wonder if prince dad will end up married to the young princess?" Weird, and probably not, but for some reason it crossed my mind.

Anyhoo, early on they're all waiting for the prince to come in for the meal, and Andrei comments on some bad art and a family tree hanging in the dining room. Apparently it signals the old man's hubris to him, but Marya can think of nothing but wonderful things about her father. There's also an architect, Mikhail Ivanovich, who is present at every meal at the whim of the prince. We're told he never speaks, but he's there to just bounce ideas off of. Or for the prince to project ideas loudly on to him when he feels like it. That's the kind of guy he is.

When the prince does enter, he asks his daughter-in-law to sit next to him. She does, and then she becomes so comfortable she begins chattering, which has about the same effect on the prince as it does on Andrei. It's grating. So he ignores her and starts talking to Andrei about battles and Napoleon. He was convinced...there were no political difficulties in Europe, nor was there a war, but only some sort of marionette comedy that todays' people played at, pretending they meant business. Prince Andrei cheerfully listenened to him with obvious delight.

I had to walk to school 75 miles uphill in the snow - that sort of thing. They do enjoy sparring.

At the end of the dinner, Liza confesses to Marya that the prince scares her because he's so witty. Marya replies how kind he is. Gruff exterior heart of gold thing?

Also of note is that Andrei is written as André when someone is speaking, I believe indicating French pronunciation. The Russian fascination with French has always been interesting. And it's that odd nobility thing - like the craze for German among the high society in the US in the early 1900s. This is beyond since they actually speak in French a lot, and it's almost like a first language with Russian. No conclusions drawn from that, but interesting.

I've also been thinking of paintings I've seen of 19th century Russian women - the dresses are all almost fashionable, but are in a heavier fabric or covered with fur. They're always tweaked a little and it makes them look slightly odd. I guess empire gauze dresses would have been nigh on impossible in freezing Russia.

Anyhow, we've been inside the homes of a few families now, and this is the Bolkonsky's. I can't see Marya marrying Anatole. That would just be a wreck. But I bet it will happen.

And Andrei leaves for war tomorrow. In the book, and when I read the chapter tomorrow as well!

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Volume I, Book I, Chapter XXIII

The arrival of Andrei to his family estate. He brings along the pregnant princess (Liza), whom he still seems less than enamored of, and interrupts his sister's playing of the clavichord. The Princess calls it a palace and is amazed. He doesn't interrupt his father, as there were twenty more minutes in nap time. Marya and Liza weep over seeing each other, which Andrei seems annoyed by, as it feels false. They only met once briefly at the wedding, and she's never been to his childhood home. They are genuinely overtaken by emotion. There's a lot of deep feeling going around. The Princess is chattering, but during it Marya asks questions to her brother, and when he is going, and it's clear they are connected.

There's a neat moment of connection, when Andrei asks if there father is still the same [in the last chapter we learned that he thought there were two virtues: activity and intelligence, so to that end he is always busy and always learning]:

"The same hours, and the storlls in the avenues? The lathe?"[there's a lathe in his study - activity]asked Prince Andrei with a barely perceptible smile, which showed that, despite all his love and respect for his father, he was aware of his weakness.

Andrei is leaving for the front tomorrow.

Great detail as Andrei describes to his father the battle plans, during which his father asks non sequitur questions, like how far along the pregnancy is, or yelling for his other waistcoat to his valet. There relationship is warm, and T is sure to tell us that his face relaxes and is attractive when he sees his father, rather than around his wife or society people.

T is a great fan of people looking ugly suddenly when they have an ugly thought, or are around people they don't like. Marya is said to have beautiful eyes, so large, deep and luminous that despite the unattractiveness of the whole face, those eyes were more attractive than beauty.

What a great line. Princess Marya never sees those looks, so can't see that she is attractive to people. There are such rich details. And, my favorite in this chapter that she is excited when telling Andrei about her geometry lessons, as if she enjoyed them, when we've seen her blush, close down, and feel stupid. That's a great detail of her momentary lie to seem excited for her brother. T is schooled in the ways people lie to each other and themselves.

We'll see what happens tomorrow.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Volume I, Book I, Chapter XXII

Okay, it's been a long day, and this was a long chapter, over 3/4 in French. Thank god for notes. SO I have a feeling I may augment this tomorrow. Hey--I said I'd read a chapter a day, and I've done that already, so no guilt.

We're are Red Hills, the estate of Andrei's father, Nikolai Bolkonsky. We learn that he's quite a slave driver to his daughter and his estate, with times for everything. His daughter, Princess Marya, must study a lot, and he tries to make her learn. She comes off as a bit of a simp. Very Christian, and terrified of her father, she doesn't understand what he wants her to learn.

The majority of the chapter is taken up with the letter to Marya from Julie Kulagin (the one who was chatting with Nikolai much to the consternation of Sonya at the Rostov's). Julie believes she is too old for Nikolai, but is obviously taken with him. The letter to Marya begins with nearly passionate protestations of love for Marya, and then is taken up with Nikolai. And she imparts that Pierre is now a Count, and he has the Bezukhov fortune. Julie likes Pierre, but realizes he has a difficult time ahead. She also mentions Vassily wanting to marry her off to Anatole (the bad boy). Remember that? She calls Anna Mikhailovna "aunt in general". Hee.

Marya writes back about how hard it is for a rich man to pass through the eye of a needle, and feeling bad for Pierre, and how she would be married to whomever for her duty. She also says she won't read the book of mysticism that Julie sent her, since she can't figure out why everyone can't just read the bible and nothing else, and figure out the word of god. She doesn't like reading or studying anything else. She's really Simpy McZealot at this point; she's already on my nerves. She blushes a lot. She even has a companion who seems much lighter than she.

The last paragraph is great, and tells you all you need to know: "The princess glances at her watch adn noticing that she was already five miniutes later for playing the clavichord, went with a frightened face to the sitting room. According to the established order of the day, between noon and two o'clock the prince rested and the the princess played the clavichord."

Monday, February 15, 2010

Volume I, Book I, Chapter XXI

Pierre's an orphan. It happens. Bezukhov dies.

There is some wrangling and excitement, and an honest-to-god tug of war for the will between and Anna and Catiche (which must mean "bitter Princess" in Russian). Catiche keeps trying to go into the room and get the Count to denounce it, obviously, and finally when she drops it, Anna picks it up and runs into the bedroom, followed closely by Catiche and Vassily.

Since we're from Pierre's POV, next is Catiche coming back out, saying "You've been waiting for this" then bursting into sobs, and then Vassily coming out and bursting into sobs after pontificating about the pointlessness of it all. Anna comes out last to tell him that his Father has died. She is crying as well, and tells him to cry as well, but Pierre was glad that nobody could see his face -- he seems to be as flummoxed as before. T really makes him seem simple. Meanwhile, is challenging to tell if Catiche and Vassily are sad from the death or the possible loss of a fortune.

The next morning Anna tells Pierre (completely in French) that he is hopefully the head of a large fortune, to remember his Father's promise to Boris and that if she hadn't been there god know what would have happened. Pierre understood nothing and silently gazed at Anna Mikhailovna, blushing shyly. T says she goes to the Rostov's, tells of how Pierre bravely hid his sorrow, that the last meeting between father and son was so touching she could not recall it without tears, and lastly that she told everyone about what Catiche and Vassily had done, but as a great secret and in a whisper.

I love that last bit. Such a great detail. Telling everyone, but as a secret and in a whisper. Ha. She's quite an engineer. Catiche calls her an Intriguer!, which is a fun accusation, and it's unclear if she poisoned the Count's mind to her and Vassily. It's apparent how conniving they were as well, but she does seem a bit more sympathetic. A complete pro, though, as they all are. It's hard to believe Pierre is that daft. I'm having a bit of an issue with that. One would think he'd have some clue of the world around him, but I guess not. We'll see what's next

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Volume 1, Book I, Chapter XX

Tolstoy has such a masterful grasp of the richness of comedy in inopportune moments, or perhaps of how ridiculous moments can happen even when things are the most grave.

Pierre is brought into his father's room. His father is being given last rites in a chair on the other side of the room from his bed. He's in an armchair, and the priests are solemnly intoning. Hysterically, an old servant is reaching around the side of the armchair to hold the candle to look like Count Bezukhov is holding it. The two princesses, Catiche, and Vassily are there as well. The description of Vassily is great, going along with the earlier descriptions of his dry, uninterested tone: "His face expressed calm piety and submission to the will of God. "If you don't understand these feelings, the worse for you," his face seemed to say. Nothing more is needed to describe his superciliousness. Pierre bumbles and crosses himself with the hand holding the candle and the young princess giggles behind her handkerchief.

Pierre notices Catiche and Vassily go to the bed, and then leave through a rear door and come back. (I hope they don't get the papers! This is nerve-wracking!) Bezukhov must be carried back to his bed, and Anna helps with that. Pierre watches him, and we are told that he has leonine gray hair, a handsome sensual mouth and wide brow, majestic gaze which are not disfigured by the proximity of death, but he is helpless as his head lolls while he is carried. T really does have a thing with mouths. It's a descriptor go-to.

Another comic moment, as Pierre tries to figure out what to do next. Looking at Anna, who motions for him to kiss his father's hand, then sit in a chair, he continually needs her to tell him what to do. There's a great moment when the Count looks right at him, and either this gaze said nothing at all...or it said all too much. Pierre has not clue how to take it. His silent entreaties and her silent instruction are comic. I can imagine them being played for laughs if acted out. He's so sincere, and so lost. T says he sits and "again assumed the symmetrically naive pose of an Egyptian statue, evidently regretting that is clumsy and fat body took up so much space, and applying all his inner forces to making himself seem as small as possible." Poor Pierre - you really hope he gets comfortable some day.

Then Pierre must help turn him over, as the servant knows that's what he's asking for. While doing so, one arms dangles helplessly, and they are both surprised. The Count "looked at the disobedient arm, at the expression of horror on Pierre's face, at the arm again, and on his face there appeared - so incongruous with his features - a faint, suffering smile, as if expressing mockery at his own strengthless-ness. Unexpectedly, at the sight of this smile, Pierre felt a shuddering in his breast, a tickling in his now, and tears blurred his vision."

So not maudlin or sentimental. In the midst of this intrigue, jostling for money and position, hard feelings, self-conscious fake piety, bumbling moving a nearly-dead man, out pops this unexpected human moment between father and son. Acknowledgment of humanity and the ridiculousness and helplessness of the situation. Just beautiful.

This Tolstoy guy can really write, huh?

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Volume 1, Book I, Chapter XIX

This will be all plot:

Pierre is taken from the party by Anna Mikhailovna to his dying father. He falls asleep in the carriage. They enter through the back by rooms he never knew existed, right past where Vassily and Catiche are talking. He jumps and she gets up and slams the door. Pierre is figuring something is different. He walks into the anteroom outside of his father's chamber, and everyone treats him differently with much more respect - picking things up for him, offering him chairs, etc. He senses not to refuse.

Anna tells him she will look out for his interests. Vassily comes in and shakes his hand and sits with him. Anna comes out of the room and says it's time for extreme unction.

Wow - the way this chapter is written is wonderful for suspense. Through Pierre's POV we are a little lost, and unsure what's going on. It's clear in Anna and Vassily there are a couple of major game players. And it's clear what an oaf Pierre is, there is no other word. You wonder how he'll survive this, and seems very easily manipulated. One hopes he comes down on the right side of trust.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Volume I, Book I, Chapter XVIII


We're told that just as the sixth anglaise was being danced at the Rostov's, Count Bezukhov (rich, dying, Pierre's father) has his sixth stroke. He's given a blank confession, which I had never heard of - apparently if the person is dying and not able to speak, the Priest just says a list of common sins and then absolves the person for them. Huh. I'll keep my opinions to myself.

So Vassily is there, and he goes in to speak to the Princess, I think the oldest of the three we met earlier, about the will. She is called Catiche, but her name is Katerina Semyonovna. She is not interested in what the Prince is telling her, namely that Pierre stands to inherit everything if the Count has left him the estate in his will, and if he's written a letter to the sovereign that Pierre be considered a son. The Count is pressing her, but she doesn't take the bait, and keeps saying a bastard can't inherit.

FINALLY, he convinces her, and she just goes on a tear about how no one is grateful, and no one appreciates all her sacrifice, and that "those who are mean and vile succeed". She keeps saying "I know whose intrigue this is", and that person is Anna Mikhailovna, who apparently told the Count all kinds of awful things about the three sisters, and during that period is when he wrote the will and the letter. This does succeed in giving Vassily the place where the count keeps his papers, in a portfolio under his pillow. The chapter ends with her shouting to get even with Anna M.

T describes Catiche as having hair that looks varnished to her head, with a dry and straight waist. She seems pious and worried in her reticence at the beginning, but then obviously is filled with self-righteousness. Vassily, too, when getting frustrated that she is not talking to him about what he wants to hear, his "cheeks began to twitch nervously now on one side, now on the other, giving his face an unpleasant expression which never appeared on Prince Vassily's face when he was in a drawing room." He also looks around in fear. It's just this side of melodrama, since it's obvious he really cares about the money, even though he's couching it in care for her. He's getting more and more impatient as she doesn't engage or give up the information. My favorite line of his is "You understand that myonly deire is to fulfill his wishes religiously; that is the only reason I've come here. I am here only to help him and you."


I have not even peeked to see what's happening yet, but it will surely be fascinating. I have an inkling from the cast of characters in the front listing, but I'll hold on and see how it goes. She's dry, self-righteous and angry; he's all but twisting his moustache. But no one yet is all good or bad. I love that.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Volume I, Book I, Chapter XVII

I think I'm going to shorten these titles now. V1, B1, XVII, etc. Are we all in agreement? Ah, I'll see how I feel tomorrow.

So this is the after party. Natasha comforts Sonya, who is despondent over love for Nikolai and that Vera has threatened to tell the Countess about it. Turns out since they're first cousins they need special permission to marry from the Bishop. Natasha cries in sympathy, then comfort her, and Sonya turns back into a kitten.

Back at the dance, Natasha asks "fat Pierre" to dance as she's told to, and acts very grown-up with a fan and "worldly pose". The Countess notices how adult she's acting - scandale!

The rest of the chapter is given to the Count dancing a very fast dance with Marya, the Daniel Cooper, which is a fast part of the "anglaise". Lots of dances in the 18th century. They could dance up a storm. The Count does, going faster and faster, the dance being like a trebak, which I just learned is the fast dance with the knee bends. Natasha is so amused she laughs out loud and lets no one concentrate on anything but her father, and a good time is had by all.

I kept thinking this was one of those chapters where you become fond of people, and everyone's having such a good time, and then later you'll come back to the house and it will be destroyed or everyone will have died. I could be wrong, but it just felt like the buttering up before some great tragedy. I mean, the book is called "War and Peace", not "Land of 1,000 Dances".

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Volume 1, Book I, Chapter XVI

This one's old vs. young in some ways

Did I mention that it's August 26th?

So still at the birthday. There has been a declaration or maifesto of war. A German count is speaking in its favor. When Shinshin asks what's the point of war, he answers "'Pecause, my tear sir,' he said, pronouncing the b as p and the d as a t, 'pecause the emperoro knows that". Brilliant dialect for the next paragraph. The German gets a little excited in favor of war, for the old hussars (note to self: look up "hussar"), and asks Nikolai to back him up. Marya Dmitrievna calls from the other end of the table (women at one end, men at the other) to the Count to find out what's going on, and he replies his son, his son! is going to war. She replies she has 4 sons in the war and it's just as easy to die anywhere else - God's will.

Natasha gets dared something, and at this point stands up and asks what's for dessert. Which is a no-no and shocks the adults. And she keeps at it, past the point of shock to where the adults laugh because she keeps harping at Marya Dmitrievna even after she's told she'll get no ice cream at all, or carrot. And she gets her pineapple ice cream. Everyone laughs.

That Natasha, she's a special one. I think we're getting that.

  /hʊˈzɑr/ [hoo-zahr]

1. (originally) one of a body of Hungarian light cavalry formed during the 15th century.
2. a member of a class of similar troops, usually with striking or flamboyant uniforms, in European armies.

So, flamboyantly uniformed armies. For a fashionable war, I suppose. How romantic they were.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Volume 1, Book 1, Chapter XV

Dinner at the Rostov's. We meet

Shinshin, Countess Rostov's cousin, who likes to have a good time joking with the youngsters at their expense, without their knowing. Sparring.

Berg, a proper young soldier, speaking about how much he makes and his possibility for advancement. This is who Natasha teases Vera with saying he's her fiance.

Marya Dmitrievna Akhrosimov, who everyone is waiting for. She's loud, brash, known and feared through court, Moscow and Petersburg for her candid tongue.

She loves Natasha, though calls her a bad girl, and gives her ruby earrings. Pierre has arrived, and is making everyone uncomfortable without knowing it. Marya tells him "shame on you" for coming to a party while his father is dying.

And the rest is all the great stuff - passing sentences about who is sitting with whom, what they're talking about, and how they feel. Count at one end, Countess at the other. Vera with Berg (him talking about love); Nikolai with Julie and not with Sonya, who's jealous; Pierre with Boris and Natasha. Pierre is eating everything, and drinking each wine, which you get the feeling is quite rude. And then Natasha "gazed at Boris as a thirteen-year-old girl gazes at a boy she has just kissed for the first time and is in love with. She occasionally turned this same gaze to Pierr, and, under the gaze of this funny, lively girl, he wanted to laugh to himself, without knowing why."

I feel the stage is set.

And then we're back to Nikolai, the jealous Sonya, and then the over-protective governess, and finally a German tutor who is upset at not being offered wine, because he wants to memorize everything at the dinner, and only wanting knowledge of it all.

I love these huge scenes - spectacular. He's set up the characters so well that he can just pull a line or two out and you know who they are. Sometimes, it will be paragraphs earlier to tell who they are, sometimes just a passing sentence. There's great detail, and it's all in the service of the story. IT's not lazy and chock full of pointless detail, it's rich. Such exciting stuff. I can see, from the this great eye that sees all detail, what incredible scenes must be coming.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Volume 1, Book I, Chapter XIV

You just gotta love Tolstoy.

In this chapter, the Countess asks the Count for 500 roubles, and then gives it to Anna Mikhailovna when she gets back.

That would be the Cliff's Notes version.

In reality, the Countess is upset, rings her servant who takes too long to get there, so she calls her "miss" and "dear" which T tells us is what she does when she's cross.

The Count comes in, and speaks highly of his highly paid chef and his Madeira sauce. He waddles in, more specifically. The Countess asks what the stain is she points to, on his waistcoat, and says it must be gravy. And then "The thing is, Count, that I need money."
Her face grew sad.

I'm really falling in love with Tolstoy for these details. She tells him it's quite a lot as she takes out her handkerchief to wipe off the gravy stain.

So the Count calls Mitenka to get him 700 roubles, "Yes, Mitenka, please, be sure they're clean," said the Countess, sighing sadly. She says money has done so many awful things, but she very much needs it.

Anna comes back, the Countess abruptly pulls away a handkerchief that has been covering the money, blushing (which looks strange T says) and tells her it's for Boris, to have his uniform made. They both start crying.

They wept because they were friends, and because they were kind, and because they, who had been friends since childhood, were concerned with such a mean subject -- money; and because their youth was gone...But for both of them they were pleasant tears...

Really. Just really. What can you say? Gorgeous.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Volume 1, Book I, Chapter XIII

Still no war, though a little talk of it.

Opening is Pierre coming back a few days before to the house, being greeted by his three female cousins - the unpleasant one we met last chapter, one with a mole above her lip, and one without a mole. They tell him about the gossip, and tell him he should only visit the count if he wants to kill him of shame. Pierre goes to his room. Fast forward.

Boris goes up to talk to Pierre, who doesn't remember him from when they were kids. Pierre is fighting an imaginary battle of Napoleon and Pitt, and interrupted by Boris. Boris basically says that he and his mother want nothing from the Count (this might be a surprise to his mother), and this makes Pierre like him and want to know him more. Boris invites Pierre to dinner at the Rostov's, which he will go to to see more of Boris.

Boris leaves with his mother, who seems genuinely upset at how ill the Count is. He asks her what his attitude is toward Pierre, and she says it will all be spelled out in the will. Boris wonders aloud why he would leave them anything, and she says he is so rich and they are so poor. When Boris says that's no reason, she wails how ill he is.


You do wonder what's going to happen with the money, but it's interesting that people are more interested in that than the fighting. Boris even says as much, that Moscow is much more interested in gossip than fighting. This is right before Napoleon is trying to take England. Love the footnotes, filling me in about 1805 politics. Battles are so clean in hindsight. It's amazing that he's writing this years later with characters speaking of strategy as if it hasn't happened. I suppose it's much clearer in the past, but it must have been a bit of a puzzle to put it together. Still, the humans are the point. I'm assuming we're becoming quite invested before we follow them on to the battlefield, which feels inevitable. So much easier to care for people than concepts, even though they may be stand-ins. The little details in this book are so rich. Great dialogue, too.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Volume 1, Book 1, Chapter XII

Anna Mikhailovna and her son Boris pull up to Bezukhov's in the Rostov's carriage. I love how she just borrowed it to whisk away to the Count's to try to get her son some money. There's a neat detail that the streets are strewn with straw, which is noted as something done when someone was near death to mute the sound of carriage wheels.

Boris is obviously very unhappy about going, but it doing it for his mother. Once there, they are told the count is sick, but notice that Vassily's carriage is already there, so she asks to see him. He's annoyed, but she's still trying to assert her son's right as a godson (I don't know if there's a word for this particular relationship), but begins by thanking Vassily for saving her son from regular service.

One of the nieces of the Count comes out of the room and is annoyed at the noise. Anna Mikhailovna takes the opportunity to plant herself in a chair and stay, saying she will go in with the priest for last rites, since it's difficult, but women are used to suffering. Ha.

T has a great off-the-cuff description of the niece, a "cold and sullen face and a long waist strikingly out of proportion with her legs" as if he is surprised at the character that just walked out of the story he's writing. Brilliant.

Anna Mikhailovna keeps calling the Count her Uncle, and tells Boris to go find Pierre and communicate the dinner invitation. Vassily thanks her for getting the boy off his hands, since he does nothing.

So now we have both Vassily and Anna Mikhailovna waiting to get their hands on the Count before he dies, with both of them wanting Pierre out of the way. Conniving.

Great characters. I'm picturing Swoosie Kurtz and Alan Rickman. Vassily keeps being described by his annoyance and monotone, and she by her will. Also, T tells us her shoes are falling apart and her dress has been re-dyed. I see what we're supposed to see about her.

We'll see if the door opens....

Friday, February 5, 2010

Volume 1, Book 1, Chapter XI

So, for my ones of readers, I did write about Chapter IX, but it looks like I forgot to publish it. So now it's up its rightful place, which is good since it introduces Vera and T's description of her as being beautiful yet annoying to everyone around her.

This chapter begins with the Countess and Anna Mikhailovna mourning over old times. The Countess turns to Vera "obviously not her favorite" and abruptly tells her "Can't you feel that you're not needed here?". Harsh.

Vera leaves, just in time to pass by Nikolai, Sonya, Boris & Natasha, sitting in couples. Nikolai is writing poetry, and Vera comes in and grabs her inkwell from Nikolai, and tells Natasha that whatever is happening between her and Boris is ridiculous. She threatens to tell their Mother.

Natasha calls her a name "Madame de Genlis", which is not footnoted, and they all leave. T says The beautiful Vera, who had such an irritating, unpleasant effect on evryone" seems barely effected by what anyone said to her. Poor cold Vera.

Meanwhile, back in the drawing room, Anna Mikhailovna and the Countess are commiserating. Anna says she has no money, and the Countess says that at least Boris will be an officer, and not a "junker" as Nikolai will be. Privates were called "junkers". That can't have made them feel too worthy, huh? Anna said she's down to one 25 rouble note, but will do anything for her son, and grovel to whomever she needs. She even suggests the Countess speak to Vassily for his possible help with Nikolai getting a better position.

Anna thinks maybe she can get some money from Count Bezukhov (about to kick, Pierre's father, and Boris' god-father) for Boris. In fact, it's such a capital idea she decides that she'll just run off right now, since it's two and dinner's not until 4, and take Boris to see the Count. They sweep off.

One thing that always strikes me about 19th century novels is their obsession with both romance and money. Especially money. I think the romance part has overtaken the 20th century novel, stories and movies, but 19th century novels, from Austen to Dickens to Tolstoy, were quite candid about money. Even when dealing with aristocracy, it's quite clear who has money, what it does, who needs it, and why. The Countess is worried that her husband will spend all of theirs, and already we have Vassily's interest in the Bezukhov inheritance, as well as the notion that it might be Pierre who gets it. That's the gossip.

Either way, the pocketbook holds a lot of clout, and I guess the number one way to make it still is to inherit it. Everyone seems to have a title in this book, but not everyone has the money. Will be interesting to see how this theme is continued.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Volume 1, Book 1, Chapter X

So, had surgery, more lucid than I expected, and about to head to bed, so I'm making this short:

Sonya + Nikolai
Boris + Natasha

Natasha waits in a room for Boris, then hides and overhears Nikolai pledge his undying love for the cat-like Sonya.

Natasha calls Boris in to tell him ostensibly, but really just to ask him to kiss her. He doesn't since she's too young, but does tell her he loves her, and will ask for her hand in 4 years when she's 17. He says, "Settled", she says "Settled" and then she says "Forever? Till death?"

He doesn't answer, but they walk arm in arm. Why do I feel like that's a bad omen?

I thought Sonya was the name of the cat in "Peter and The Wolf". It's not - it's Ivan. Sonya's the duck. Still a good cat name, though.

And if you haven't seen this version of Peter and the Wolf, short film, check it out. It won the Oscar in 2008, and it's wonderful:

Sorry - snafu

Sorry folks, just sitting down to read when I got a call from the hospital wondering where I was. The Dr's office does the scheduling, and they told me 10:30, but the hospital had 8:30 ? This does not inspire confidence.


So, missing today, since probably later I will be sleeping. But you never know...

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Volume 1, Book I, Chapter IX

Still at the Rostov's. Nikolai is in the drawing room with the niece of the Count and Countess, Sonya.

First the Count is kidding Nikolai that he wants to follow his friend so badly (Boris) that he's quit the University and is enlisting. He keeps saying how "That's friendship!" Nikolai protests that's not the reason. Everyone's hackles are up because of Napoleon. Meanwhile, Sonya gets jealous when Nikolai seems to flirt with Julie, a guest. She's runs out of the room close to tears, and Nikolai runs after her. This prompts the adults to say how transparent the kids are.

The Countess speaks of how there is so much to worry about, and how her children would never keep a secret from her (which T points out is an "error" that many parents make). The County parries that she knew nothing of Nikolai's enlistment. Vera, the older daughter, agrees that she was raised differently, and T points out how her smile is odd and she makes everyone feel awkward. Sad.

The guests leave and the Countess complains how they just "sat and sat".

Well, we've established that everyone talks about everyone else in this book, and there is much gossip. I loved the description of Sonya as a kitten who will grow into a beautiful cat. He says she is about ready to show her cat nature.

Poor Vera. To be described as someone whose smile makes her face "unnatural and therefore unpleasant" is just sad.

And there's a great phrase Anna Mikhailovna uses to describe Nikolai and Sonya, "cousinage dangereux voisinage" - cousinhood [is a] dangerous neighborhood.

Tomorrow I have surgery, so I'm hoping to just blog first thing. I have a feeling I won't be so into it post-surgery. I just have a feeling.


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Volume 1, Book 1, Chapter VIII

It's a short one.

Basically, while the countess is annoyed at the story about the bear and ready for her guest to leave, her youngest daughter (with the same birthday), Natasha, runs in followed by two young children, a student, and a soldier. The soldier is the tall, blond son of Princess Drubetskoy (Boris); the student is Nikolai, dark and curly, Natasha's brother. T says she's at that point she's no longer a child, but not yet a young woman. On the balance. She and the other children are laughing and their energy collides with the adults. They work on behaving themselves, and Boris goes to get everything ready to leave with his mother as Natasha and the others leave the room.

So, introduction of Boris & Natasha. I don't know if there's a couple, but I love that they're introduced at the same time.

I love how T just keeps introducing more and more characters. And each one comes on with some kind of energy that changes the scene. Kind of fantastic.

You just know she's going to be important.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Volume 1, Book 1, Chapter VII

Okay, remind me not to read anymore on this on the web. Ever. I was searching for a relationship map on the web, thinking perhaps someone had come up with a flow chart (couldn’t find one, so somebody’s got a project!), and in the amazon blurb the little bit about the book reveals a major plot point – a marriage. And it’s between a character I’ve met and one I haven’t. No fair! I’ll just pretend I’m completely ignorant of it.

I do have a feeling, though, that a relationship chart would start off like this:

And end up like this:

So, we’re now at the Rostov’s in Moscow. We’ve followed Princess Drubetskoy (who pleaded for Vassily to have her son be put in a special guard to save him from going to the front at Anna’s Party - not sure I mentioned that) to the name day party for the mère and fille Rostov, who share the same Saint’s Day. To be confusing, her name is Anna, too, but it’s Anna Mikhailovna, as opposed to Anna Pavlovna, who hosted the party earlier.

The Countess Rostov is currently exhausted from entertaining visitors. T. tells us she’s 45, with a “thin, Oriental type of face…evidently worn out by children, of whom she had had twelve.” I’d be exhausted, too. The Count is receiving visitors, and he gets a whole, long paragraph, too. He calls everyone “mon cher” or ma chère” and invites them to dinner. My favorite description is that after showing a guest out he“would return to the gentleman or lady who was still in the drawing room, moving up an armchair, and with the look of a man who loves life and knows how to live it, spreading his legs dashingly and putting his hands on his knees…offer his surmises about the weather, discuss health…”
and then check on the table that was being laid for 80 (!) guests and tell the valet that all was good. There’s such a descriptive line about him smoothing his thin gray hair over his baldspot before he goes back in each time. That bold bit is mine, but that phrase says it all.And I love "spreading his legs dashingly. We've all seen that. 19th century people - they're just like us!

So to get the gossip going, the last guests come in, Maria Lvovna Karagin and her daughter. (Don’t confuse her with KUragin, which is the last name of Prince Vassily, Helene and Anatole).

There’s a great bit about rustling skirts and bits of French giving the impressoin of people coming and going, and the talk settles down to what Pierre has done. They’ve all been punished except Anatole – Pierre is banished to Moscow, Dolokhov has been broken to the ranks. Turns out they took the bear with them to “the actresses” [I am totally surprised here. I thought *** meant, ***, not actresses. Well. I suppose at this time it was one in the same.] The police came after them for disturbing the peace, and they tied one of the policeman to the bear and threw it in the river Moika.

This entertains the count to no end.

But through this we find out that Bezukhov (Kirill Vladimirovich - Pierre’s father) is gravely ill, but used to be extremely handsome. Turns out also that he has many bastard children, but Pierre is his favorite. Vassily is the heir to Count Bezukhov’s fortune through his wife, but Pierre could possibly get it. It’s millions of rubles and 40,000 serfs. So quite a lot of wealth. And, wouldn’t you know it, Vassily is on the way to Moscow. Surprise, surprise….

So, loved the description of Rostov, who I think is going to be important (more of that $&#^*$# spoiler of an Amazon thing), but it’s becoming clear how entangled everyone is. There is much gossip, it seems. And wealth.

I’m glimpsing the edge of an enormous world, I think. Best to put the toes in slowly and get the temperature before wading further.

And that bear thing is pretty funny. Not if you’re the cop, though, I’d imagine.