Let’s Read This Thing : War and Peace is the collected notes and thoughts that popped into my brain while reading through Tolstoy’s Montserpiece. Spoilers!
The end is near. Literally near. Three Volumes down, one and an epilogue to go. Volume IV is short, it’s fast, its the beginning of the end, and I’m actually already finished with three of its four Parts as I write this. I got in a groove, alright?
A common complaint with War and Peace is that it has far too many named characters, and that’s a fair observation. Off the top of my head I can count at least 40, and that’s no where near the total count. (I wouldn’t be shocked if the actual number is ten times that.)
Now obviously not everyone can make it through this. It would just be absurdly unrealistic for every single one of the dozens/hundreds of named characters to make it to the end with a happily ever after. Most, I’m sure, will never have a revealed fate. Princes and counts and soldiers come and go in such rapid numbers that the destinies of most will elude us forever. But the rest? The Bolkonskys, Kuragins, Rostovs? Their dearest friends and most bitter rivals? It’s time to start whittling them down.
And it all begins with Pierre’s poorest life choice. In some pure 19th century schadenfreude we bid au revoir to the Countess Bezhukov. She’d spent seven years being pretty darned two faced and rotten, and it came back to bite her while her husband whithered away in a prison camp. Her demise is only hinted at, but complications from an abortion (fathered through an affair) seem to be where Tolstoy was going with the whole situation. The salons are all a twitter about her young death… well, that and the outcome of Borodino, which seems to be a victory when viewed through the lens of far away St. Petersberg.
Of course, victory is subjective in this war. Napoleon occupies Moscow afterall. As news of his wife’s follies spread, Pierre is declared guilty of an arson he did not commit. The five men with him are executed, but he is spared and sent to languish in prison… though it is there that he meets Karataev, a stranger who will influence his life in a parallel to the mason at the train station so many years earlier.
As with many Parts to War and Peace, this particular section has two sides- the joy to go along with the pain. (It’s really no surprise that the book’s title refers to opposite states of the world, when each chapter highlights both the highs and lows of existence.) Nikolai chances upon Marya’s aunt and uncle while on a trip for provisions. There he is reunited with the Princess, and not long after is freed by Sonya who does her duty in releasing him from his engagement. The Rostov’s might be secure again afterall…. especially if Natasha and Andrei renew their relationship as well.
…Except we’re back to pain again. Marya gets word that her brother is alive and ailing under Natasha’s watch. She makes it back to his side, but he has already given up. War has finally taken its toll on Andrei. He left his family to seek satisfaction in war. In the end he lost his wife, his father, and his will to really connect with anyone. Not even Natasha could change him- I think he would have eventually fallen back to his disillusionment even if the Anatole scnadal had not happened. Though maybe his life would’ve been intact. By the end of the Part he is yet another casualty of the war that changed Russia. And he won’t be the last.