Somewhere in the middle of Book 2 I realised that I’m really enjoying this book; like, really enjoying it. I might even, shock horror, prefer it to Anna Karenina which, by the way, I loved.
I’m not sure what brought about this realisation but it probably has something to do with my new copy of the book and the fact that I crammed so much reading in over Christmas. I’m now well and truly absorbed in the Rostov/Bolkonsky/Kuragin drama and enjoying it hugely, so much so that I’ve stopped minding the long paragraphs devoted to military strategies, political manoeuvrings or, God help me, the Freemasons. Right now I’m struggling to think of anything I really don’t like about War and Peace.
It helps, of course, that Parts 3-5 have been pretty busy. Andrew Bolkonsky has had a series of rapid changes of heart, fallen in love, become a big mover in the political sphere and gained a reputation as an influential liberal. Pierre Bezukov has reconciled with his wife and promptly separated from her again. And the Rostovs? They’re just a big old mess. It’s brilliant. I’m warming to Natasha Rostov so much more now. The turmoil of her engagement and seduction is beautifully played out.
“She looked straight into his eyes and his nearness, self-assurance and the good natured tenderness of his smile vanquished her. She smiled just as he was doing, gazing straight into his eyes. And again she felt with horror that no barrier lay between him and her.”
These chapters are set during another of those lulls in the storm, when Europe is experiencing a short-lived peace. They’re a glittering whirl of balls and gossip and nights at the opera, all while the storm gathers on the horizon. I love it.