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 might happen, no promises. But they are probably kind of vague?
The fourth part of volume II is different from some other sections in that it focuses almost entirely on one single family group, rather than bouncing around from viewpoint to viewpoint. In it, Nikolai travels to his family in Otradnoe, their home in the countryside. Still racked with guilt over his part in his family’s financial situation, the young soldier muses on his family and his part in it.
The Rostovs are in many ways the antithesis of the Kuragins. They are members of the upper class, but of an old-fashioned sort that hasn’t quite gotten with the times. Where the Kuragins are growing in their wealth due to careful marriages and a ruthless attitude, the Rostovs are charming and naive. They sink further into debt not because of major vices, but because they want to be kind and treat those around them with the lifestyle they are used to.
Furthermore, if Nikolai belonged to any other family the entire Sonya situation would be a non-issue. The Rostovs need money, they need their son to make a good marriage, but they (begrudgingly) allow him to enter into an engagement for love anyway. Nevermind that they are barely able to afford a dowry for Vera! The Count and Countess seem to be decent parents, but their entire family is inching closer and closer to ruin because they cannot make the tough decisions.
The one possible saving grace for the family at this point is Natasha. The girl continues to charm those around her- going on hunts, dancing to folk music, and exhibiting an incredible vitality and zest for life. The engagement to Andrei Bolkonsky, a marriage that her family desperately needs, is on the table with a year-long waiting period. Though she starts to grow bored with the wait, her continued vivacity pushes the family forward.
Oh, and there are several chapters in this about a wolf hunt (which Natasha participates in). Like… a lot of chapters. I now have all sorts of 19th-century hunting trivia stored away in my brain. Because that is going to be really useful someday, right? I do really want a Borzoi though.