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.

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