Let’s Read This Thing : War and Peace is my many-month’s long project to read the 1,200 page behemoth about Russia’s involvement in the Napoleonic Wars, and all the lords and ladies back home who are having crises in the midst of it.
And so it ends. Sort of. There is still about 85 pages worth of Epilogue. But the Volumes nad Parts and Chapters that follow the years between 1805 and 1812 are complete and in the bag.
The last few parts have served to whittle down the war and the world affected by it. Characters have died, Moscow has been abandoned by the French, and the Russians are returning to their lives again, lives that have been forever changed.
It is fitting that the story closes out with Pierre and Natasha. Though neither ever went to war, their experiences over the years changed them both in profound ways. While their friends and family symbolized the soldiers and the mindsets behind war and glory, Pierre and Natasha exemplified those left at home. One is a man seeking to find both himself and his own meaning of truth and morality in the midst of a new found fortune and a war that followed. The other is a girl who transforms from a child to a woman- an example of life and light in the shadow of conflict, but a person who is not immune to conflict of her own.
They’ve both gone through their own hells- as prisoners, as citizens forced to abandon their homes, as objects of scandal, as individuals who have lost loved ones left and right. I’ve seen people characterize War and Peace as a novel with two plots- one of the Napoleonic “Wars”, and one of the socialites and the “peace” back home. Only… there really is no “peace”in this story, not until the very end anyway. Even those who do not fight have been affected profoundly. All have experienced loss.
The Part ends on an uplifting note, though not one of ultimate resolution (the Epilogue is for that). It’s as if Tolstoy wants the readers to know that things will finally improve, but not too much, and not just yet.
The past four Volumes have been about history. They are about an event in time, the things that led to those events, and the impact they have on those who lived them. They are about the forces that drive men and women to do what they do and the millions of small actions that lead to change. Pierre now has not only an appreciation for his life, but also hope for the future. War is over, and the real peace, inner peace, can begin at last.