Thursday, 16 April 2015

War & Peace Read-along: Week Ten, Book Thirteen

I said it when I put up the prompts and I'll say it again - I'm finding it really hard to see the book that I was enjoying so much in February in what we're reading at the moment.  Take now, for example.  I could be dragging myself through some more dreary war chapters for this week's reading (which I am so very badly behind on...) and instead I'm writing this slightly moany post about last week's reading!  I couldn't be more excited about breaking through the current drudgery and getting back to something (ANYTHING) a bit more interesting.

1)  The only bit of this week's war-themed escapades that I really took in was a small section where it got interesting and the Russians started getting ready to attack the French but then got confused because they couldn't find somebody or other so they did it the next day and botched it again because they went crazy and just started trying to beat on some French people.  Does anybody feel as though they're learning?

When I wrote that question, I'd forgotten that there was a good chapter about what Napoleon tried to implement when the French were occupying Moscow.  So if that was true, I learnt more about that. Generally, though, I feel like I was learning more earlier on when I was more engaged and the history was being relayed in gossipy tones at parties than when I was experiencing it "live".  I found the chapters about policy and tactics and whatever Kutuzov was up to unutterably dull and just switched off entirely.  I've tried to focus and keep track of which generals are where and what they're up to but I just can't.  I think the bottom line is that I feel as though I've learnt more about the global picture but I couldn't tell you much about the specifics.

2)  Clearly Tolstoy's not a Napoleon fan - as far as Tolstoy's concerned, he's lucky at best. Thoughts?

So it turns out that this might just be my view.  My reading of Tolstoy's musings on Napoleon is that he just happened to be in the right place at the right time.  At worst, I get the feeling that Tolstoy thinks that the French army were successful in spite of Napoleon - there's one chapter that stuck in my mind where Napoleon was trotting about and issuing orders that were ignored/not relayed and dressing up in different uniforms because he liked the adoration of the public and likes the flattering historians trotting about with him.  

3)  According to Shmoop, Pierre's only been in prison for four weeks.  And in four weeks he's decided to completely re-write his personality while shedding some pounds.  I've been surprised by how well Tolstoy has portrayed the French's treatment of their prisoners.  Maybe he's not so biased after all? [I realise that's not technically a question but I'm late so we're going with it]

Although I think Tolstoy's chapters on how everybody fighting are all people and how they're driven to fight each other for no reason that they can fully understand are interesting, I do find his writing about the Russian generals to be much more favourable than his portrayals of the French and that he is by no means a neutral storyteller.  In the end, I don't feel as though I can quite trust his version of history.  I know that he claims to be breaking apart the myths perpetuated by historians but I just feel as though there's something about his talking about "our" army that makes me feel as though he perhaps isn't doing quite the public service he suggests.

4)  This might be a ridiculous question given that some of you may not be flying by the seat of your pants and only just staying caught up (like nobody around here, obviously) but is anybody else worried that the final two books are going to be all about Napoleon trudging back across Russia and that we're only going to get back to the characters we actually care about in retrospect when we hit the Epilogues?!

PLEASE DON'T BE ALL WAR UNTIL THE EPILOGUES!  I can't say much more about Book Fourteen because I've been busy with work and bridesmaid duties (two gigs this summer - clearly I'm getting to "that age"!) and haven't managed to get into following the French convoy as they keep on marching.  I thought after the end of last week's reading, we'd be getting back to the good stuff but no. I'm genuinely worried that it's going to be a slog through to the epilogues but now that we're close to the end, I'm hoping that I can just power through.  Chances are I'm in for a big catch-up read on Sunday too because I'm busy through until Sunday morning now, which I am almost certain will be a lot like hard work...

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