War and Peace – I finished it.

I am Pierre Bezukhov.

That is to say, I’m a bit of a goof trying to do my best and failing. I’m trying to improve myself but often coming up worse for wear. I’m often going on tangents in life but meandering back, I think, slowly, to the truth path that I was always seeking and would never have arrived at if I hadn’t gone on all those side trips.

Earnest and silly and a fool and I think wiser than all the other characters by the end, Pierre is the character that is going to stick with me. While I’m sure I will not forget the novel any time soon – maybe the educational bits and the second epilogue – I’m sure the characters and plots will get muddled in my brain but Pierre’s journey will not because it’s just hit too close to home. Likely for many.

While reading it I often wished I had read it earlier but I have a feeling I was too immature and just not ready for it. I am not and I hope I have the interest to read it again and I hope I have the growth to read it with new eyes when I do.

This is a brilliant guide, btw: https://medium.com/@BrianEDenton/a-year-of-war-and-peace-cc66540d9619

2019 Reading Project: War and Peace Book Ten

Growing up, I came to think anything anti-war started with the 1960s. The Baby Boomers, like many generations, though they were the first to think the thoughts they had. They were no different than other generations – although maybe they did amp up the narcissism.

Of course there were other works of anti-war fiction but Book Ten of W&P seems to me the most memorable and the most epic. From the beginning of the book as the Russians seem to fall apart and flee before a purposeless French army finally ending at Borodino with the opposing mindsets of the historic Napoleon and Zutuzov down to the blood soaked fictional field hospital where Dolohov is having his leg amputated.

I could do with less of Tolstoy’s historical essays interrupting the narrative. But I knew they were coming. Maybe at some point I’ll read about why those are in there. They aren’t too distracting and are a bit informative but I’m not reading this to be informed.

2019 Reading Project: War and Peace Book Nine

I’m about 330,000 words into W&P and Tolstoy still has me humming along with his narrative. Book Nine is mostly about Napoleon finally launching into Russian. We all know how this turns out for the French but I don’t know how it will turn out for the characters…and I want to know.

1FK-160-E1812-10-B (15946) ‘Napoleon zu Moskau, 1812’ Napoleon I. Bonaparte, Kaiser der Franzosen, 1769-1821. – ‘Napoleon zu Moskau, 1812’. – (Rußlandfeldzug 1812. Napoleon im bren- nenden Moskau, 14./16. September). Lithographie, koloriert, um 1850, von R. Werbezahl nach Zeichnung von Friedrich August Frenzel (1814-1888). E: ‘Napoleon in Moscow, 1812’ Napoleon I Bonaparte, emperor of the French (1804-15); 1769-1821. – ‘Napoleon in Moscow, 1812’. – (Russian campaign 1812. Napoleon in burning Moscow, 14-16 September). Lithograph, coloured, c.1850, by R. Werbezahl after a drawing by Friedrich August Frenzel (1814-1888). F: ‘Napoléon à Moscau, 1812’ Napoléon Ier Bonaparte, empereur des Français ; 1769-1821. – ‘Napoléon à Moscau, 1812’. – (Campagne de Russie, 1812. Napoléon dans Moscou incendié, 14-16 septembre). Lithographie, coloriée, v.1850, de R.Werbezahl d’ap. dessin de Friedrich August Frenzel (1814-1888).

What I’m most impressed by is not only how episodic the story telling is but how deeply thought out it is yet how accessible it is. Again, I’m terribly intimidated by Tolstoy.

One last observation: I love it’s genre-lessness. War and romance. politics and family squabbles. He writes about it all and he writes it all so truthfully. Incredible.

War and Peace – Book Eight My 2019 Reading Project

Natasha “thinking”

Natasha is sweet but you can’t leave a woman in her prime on the shelf for a year like Andy does. Sooner or later hormones and biology are just going to do what they do. They’re explosive enough but when you add Moscow nightlife and then Anatole to the mixture. Pow!

So you have the downfall, in the eyes of 1812 Moscow culture of a nice girl who was treated poorly by a grumpy old count, his too-obedient son and a rich playboy. Not to mention her own dad who didn’t prep her for reality.

But wait, near the end of the book Pierre seems to be nice…he could make her happy…if it weren’t for that nasty yet beautiful Ellen. What shall happen? What shall happen?

Onward!

This is a brilliant guide, btw: https://medium.com/@BrianEDenton/a-year-of-war-and-peace-cc66540d9619

War and Peace – Book Seven My 2019 Reading Project

Book Seven is wall-to-wall Rostov’s and that pretty much means spending your money and blindly avoiding your problems.

Why is War & Peace so long? Book 7 has six chapters of the Rostovs hunting wolves. It’s good….but six chapters.

And that strikes far too close to home. Fortunately, I learned while the Rostov’s, especially the Old Count doesn’t seem to. Now he gets to face that dread of impoverishing your kid or busting his dreams. Very depressing. But the small r republican in me remembers that most of this money is stolen from the people over generations so then I don’t feel too badly but still. I have a little sympathy for Nick and Sonya as they may have to learn to do with only one house and two servants in their old age.

I’m reading the book on Kindle and while I find it very compelling I do marvel a bit as I see the little meter at the bottom only register 44% read….oh, my. How much further I have to go! What’s going to happen? But no fear!

Onward!

This is a brilliant guide, btw: https://medium.com/@BrianEDenton/a-year-of-war-and-peace-cc66540d9619

War and Peace – Book Six My 2019 Reading Project

Ah, youth! And damnable old people! The more things change the more things stay the same.

All the young ones are just trying to live their lives and the grown ups are either grumpy or making bad financial decisions or acting poorly thus causing their children all kinds of consternation. And the kids just want to live their lives and love.

Andy, Pete and Nat at the rave., 1809 style.

And all the while the serfs keep tilling and harvesting and trying not to die. But I digress.

I’m in the middle third of the great novel now. I know the characters. The honeymoon is over. The initial excitement is over and yet the finale is a long way off. But I’m not feeling it’s been a slog at all. Ok, maybe a bit. Tolstoy keeps opening up and developing the characters ever so slightly. While I believe Andrei and Natasha are the romantic stars here, I’ve found the others more interesting. Marya’s inner struggle at the end seems profound. Pierre fumbling around for enlightenment and wisdom strikes a bit too close to home as does the striving of Boris.

And as a striving writer, I’m more and more intimidated by Tolstoy. He’s a god.

Onward!

This is a brilliant guide, btw: https://medium.com/@BrianEDenton/a-year-of-war-and-peace-cc66540d9619

War and Peace – Book Five My 2019 Reading Project

The man himself

So I’m come deep into War and Peace now – over a third of the way through.

The characters are no longer new. I know Pierre will be Pierre. A chump. Boris is politicking. Nick is still a rich boozer and looser but they are all trying to reform. Andrew is a depressive but I think that won’t last.

There is some changes afoot. But their final turns and their climaxes are a far way off still…And I’ve decided to quit aspartame and caffeine!

But the story keeps pulling me along. Tolstoy would fit right in with the Golden Age of TV writing, working in great stories as well as profound lessons you’d be able to talk over with your smarter friends. I’ll keep reading.

Onward!

This is a brilliant guide, btw: https://medium.com/@BrianEDenton/a-year-of-war-and-peace-cc66540d9619

War and Peace – Book Four My 2019 Reading Project

Andrey is feared dead but is not but then his wife dies in childbirth.
Pierre gets into a duel with his wife’s lover and loses his fortune to his wife.
Nick loses big at the gambling tables and has to have daddy bail him out.

Book Four is full of sadness. What the battlefield didn’t take, fate and stupidity does in book 4.

We learn more about men and Man in this chapter as the characters are buffeted and tossed about by their flaws and somewhat held steady by their virtues.

Tolstoy does such a good job of not creating characters but real people – with shadings of good and evil. Bad guys aren’t all bad and good guys have terrible faults.

I’m so eager to find out what happens to these guys.

Onward!

This is a brilliant guide, btw: https://medium.com/@BrianEDenton/a-year-of-war-and-peace-cc66540d9619

War and Peace – Book Three My 2019 Reading Project

War and Peace’s Book Three brings to mind to me the battle scenes of The Killer Angel’s by Michael Shaara.

The complete scope Schaara and Tolstoy are able to bring from an infantryman with his face in the mud to the despair of a general. From Napolean’s victory preening as seen through the eyes of Boris to the heart rending slaughter on the dam is astounding.

I’m again annoyed I didn’t come to this book sooner. As I am with so many authors (and things) I’ve come to later in life.

The magic so far of Tolstoy is that I feel compelled to keep reading the narrative. I drags me along and in the narrative I can sense the underlying philosophy that is guiding him. He’s not just spinning a yarn, I’m going to be taught something whether I want to be or not. I’m going to have Tolstoy imprinted in my soul by the end of this whether I want him there or not.

As a reader, I’m a bit intimidated. As a writer, I’m humbled, knocked to my knees humbled.

War and Peace – Book Two My 2019 Reading Project

After Book One’s endless round of cocktail parties and personal politics and kisses in alcoves and fights over wills. I was beginning to wonder where the ‘war’ in the title came into this novel but then Book Two ended up being twenty chapters of nothing but war.

And Tolstoy gives us the full gamut from buck privates to Emperors. From field tactics to international relations. Wow. The characters we met at parties in Petersburg and Moscow in Book One are now throw on the fields of battle in Austria where they are moved around to witness history and as their stories unfold we get to see it also.

And the amazing thing is that Tolstoy can keep this up over twenty chapters. It’s quite amazing. And exhausting to read.

One thing I do like about Tolstoy that I thought I might not is his minor characters. I’d recently watched a video essay on the Cohen Brother’s minor characters. Tolstoy does much the same thing. They are wonderful, unforgettable editions that added pepper to the story. They are little distractions that play off of the main characters, maybe even elaborate on them.

Onward!

This is a brilliant guide, btw: https://medium.com/@BrianEDenton/a-year-of-war-and-peace-cc66540d9619