Daily Archives: March 1, 2013

War and Peace: Check-In #2

February is over, which means it is time for another check in for Amy and my War and Peace Read Along.

warandpeace2013

Amy shared her thoughts earlier this week. And you can find the Mr. Linky to link to your own thoughts over there as well.

How are all of you doing? Are you still reading along? Are you still enjoying it, or has your enjoyment of this second part been less?

I admit I skimmed through most of the posts for this month, because I am not quite done with part II. I have 40 pages left. I am having a lot of trouble concentrating on this second part. Well, it’s not that I’m fighting against the will to put the book down. I am still interested, but I do not find it as captivating as the first part we read. I think there are three reasons:

The first is that I read the first part in one go, somewhere at the halfway point of January. By the time I was halfway through, the story had sucked me in and I really wanted to keep on reading. It was with difficulty that I put the book down by the end of part I. But then, I failed to pick it up again until a few days ago. All of the urgency I felt in the middle of January was gone. Worse, I had forgotten who most of these characters were and how they were related to one another. I am not sure if I have that all figured out still. Jason was good enough to point out that the who-is-who does not always matter so much, so I am trying not to worry about it. I tried googling some of the characters, but unfortunately found out some major spoilers, so I wouldn’t recommend that to anyone.

The second reason has to do with the battle scenes that are a heavy theme in this part of the book. I rather enjoyed witnessing the decisive chaos of the battle field, for all too often you imagine war as a planned endeavour. However, battle scenes in themselves are not all that interesting to me. In movies, I usually turn my brain off until I get to the end to find out who died/was wounded. Reading War and Peace, I am confronted with the fact that I cannot apply the same tactic to this book, even though part of me wants to. I think Tolstoy meant to show us that war is about more than the casualty loss at the end, or the winners and the losers, which means that as a reader you have to witness part of this war. I don’t know, perhaps I am reading into things. Perhaps I am trying to rationalise my reactions to this second part.

The third reason was something that Amy signalled in her post, which is the fact that the parts in which war happens are very male-centred, and we lose touch with all of the female characters. It is not that I cannot feel empathy for male characters, not at all. But I do think that I implicitly, almost without thinking, feel uncomfortable about stories that are set so definitely within an often imagined as male environment, with only male characters. Something inside me just.. I don’t know.Something withdraws from these scenes, almost to keep me from engaging too much. I wonder if it’s because over the decades, so many stories about wars and battlefields are told from  a male-centred perspective, with masculine ideals, that I do not subscribe to, that I am afraid to encounter the same here? Or perhaps it is just a matter of personal taste? I clearly have not figured this out yet..

For March we are reading Book 1, Part III. For those of you reading the ebook: Part III has 19 chapters.

Do you have a particular strategy to tackle these parts? I think I might just go for the read-in-one-go again, but this time finish part II and part III at the same time. Sometimes I feel this schedule is too slow to enable thorough engagement with the book, and at others time is moving too fast to actually keep with the schedule. So perhaps I should just take them as guidelines that will keep me reading when I most feel like giving up?