Saturday, June 12, 2010

Volume II, Book III, Chapter XIV

Well, it's been two days - I'm lagging behind. Dancing until too late on Thursday after an evening class, and then going to a friend's play and dinner after last night. So, just a quick one today....

What a charming chapter. I really love the Rostov's. They manage to get an invite to the 1810 New Year's eve ball that everyone is going to. They're going with an old lady in waiting, who Tolstoy describes as yellowing.

Natasha gets up at 8 AM to get ready, but they're still not ready when they need to leave at 10 PM. Te pandemonium is great - maids trying to take up the hem of Natasha's too-long gauze gown (I'm assuming 1810 would be smack in the middle of Empire). Natasha insists on dressing Sonya and her mother. Meanwhile, different maids and Natasha's first maid (what are they called?) Dunyasha work around her. Dunyasha's ready with a needle and to calm everyone down.

I can't help but think of Checkhov's Dunyasha. Maybe it's a servant name. Or maybe he took is from here. Once again, a small glimpse and little details bring forth a full character - it's brilliant.

The do finally leave, and Tolstoy says the same thing happened with the lady they're picking up, though his description is more distasteful - and clinical - that she washes, primps, powders and scents her old body, as if it's a thing outside her, a sack of potatoes, undesirable and somewhat impersonal, in contrast to Natasha's freshness.

I love the weirdness of 18th and 19th century Russian women's fashion. It's of the period, but something's always slightly off - usually fur. There's something heavy to it, which would make sense with the climate. The Empire dresses were gauzy, as described, and light as a feather. Easy to rip, as Natasha's does at one point. So wouldn't they be so cold it would almost be unbearable? I imagine that's why the fur trim on some of them. That's not for everything, though - this dress is from the Hermitage and of the period, and it's beautiful - I imagine she'd be freezing at New Year's though...

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