War And Peace (Book 1, Part 2): A first taste of war…

“Bolkonsky closed his eyes and immediately a sound of cannonading, of musketry, and the rattling of carriage wheels seemed to fill his ears, and now again drawn out in a thin line the musketeers were descending the hill, the French were firing, and he felt his heart palpitating as he rode forward beside Schmidt with the bullets merrily whistling all around, and he experienced tenfold the joy of living, as he had not done since childhood.”

It would’ve been nice to have made it a little further into War and Peace by now but I got held up for a week by germs. Nasty things.  Normally the opportunity to spend all that time at home with nothing to do would seem like absolute bliss – think of all that reading I could do – but I was too disgustingly sick to do anything but watch multiple episodes of Homes Under The Hammer and Storage Wars. It feels like such a wasted opportunity now!

As soon as I recovered I picked it up again and whizzed through the final chapters in Part 2 fairly quickly. It’s the first of the books devoted to the war and some of our old friends from Book 1 are now getting their first taste of camp life. Tolstoy really takes his time with both Nicolas Rostov and Andrew Bolkonsky, recounting their very different experiences in the camp and in battle at Schongrabern and showing how they both end up feeling very differently about their destinies. They both seem to end up feeling curiously validated, although confused, by their experiences. We’ve now been introduced to the famous General Kutuzov as well as god-knows-how-many other characters who appear for a few pages at a time and then disappear again. Coming back to the book after my week off I was worried I’d lose the thread and sure enough I soon got horribly confused between Dolokhov and Denisov and spent ages trying to remember where we’d encountered the shy little captain with no boots before. I’m not sure it’s the sort of book you can afford to leave untouched for too long.

I was dreading all the military stuff but so far it’s not been as incomprehensible as I imagined. So far so good. I am, however, very much looking forward to Part 3, where we return to civilian life in Moscow. Hurrah.

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