Let’s Read This Thing : War and Peace is my attempt to jot down notes and reactions to this monstrous novel that I’m reading for the first time. Spoilers may happen, but what’s the statute of limitations on spoilers anyway? It was published in 1869…
Though the topic of war seeps into the conversations and social maneuverings of Part 1, it does not arrive front and center until Part 2.
Picking up with the stories of the young men who went to war- Andrei Bolkonsky, Nikolai Rostov, and to a lesser degree, Fyodor Dolokhov- part two places the reader both within the action of the campaign, and inside the thoughts and feelings of the men fighting.
Gone are the hypothetical warfare topics of the salons, of the parties and feasts. These soldiers experience the rigors of combat as well as the politics and attitudes of those who make the big decisions. Yet these pages also illustrate just how divided the army and the alliance really is. Theft takes place within the camps, troop movements result in arguments, Austria refuses to be pleased with Russian victories, etc. Things are by no means rosy.
This particular Part was short, dealt exclusively with the military, and had very few mentions of what was going on back in the grand homes of Moscow and St. Petersburg. A large section is dedicated specially to the Battle of Schöngrabern, offering details of the conflict, the setup, and the strategies playing out.
Compared to Part 1, which was a whirlwind of plot and characters, Part 2 seems much more narrowly focused, thought it is clearly leading toward greater battles and conflicts. It did a great job towards introducing some of the real-life Generals involved in the war, as well as the attitudes within the camp and the horrors of war that the soldiers are thrown in to. Themes relating to heroism, justice, national pride, and disillusionment are all popping up, and I have a feeling that the idealized thoughts on war and glory that many of the characters held at enlistment will not be there by the time the novel concludes.
Plus, I feel like my French reading skills are actually improving? So that’s cool.
à la prochaine!