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?

7 responses to “War and Peace: Check-In #2

  1. I know how you feel, Book I Part II had quite the same effect on me. The army scenes can be tough, especially after reading of families and connections and intrigues about inheritances in Moscow and St Petersburg. Don’t give up. Those scenes definitely get better once you get to focus on the characters (especially Prince Andrej). (The parts in which war strategies are described, though, if they’re not your kind of thing, can be still very challenging.)
    On the lack of female characters: I often feel the same about it (I guess this is one of the reasons I never loved The Lord of the Rings). As for Tolstoj, I’m torn: I loved War and Peace but I detested the author’s treatment of female characters, and not because they were not present in the war parts. It’s actually the way their stories are told, the way they develop that bothers me so much. But well, at this point of the book it’s too soon to talk about it.

    Do you have a particular strategy to tackle these parts?

    When I read the book last summer I used to read a little bit of it (3%-5% of the ebook) every day for ten days, then read something else and then go back to it, and that worked for me, but I know this schedule won’t appeal to everyone. The point for me was that reading too much of it (especially the war parts) in one sitting could be a bit overwhelming (to the point I would avoid reading the next day).
    My advice: follow the characters. Book I is a long introduction, but it’s in Part III that things start to get really interesting (did I already mention Prince Andrej? :)) and more defined, so probably by the end of it you’ll know which characters you like best and then you’ll just keep reading to find out what happens to them. Then the schedule can help you to get through the other parts. :)

    I tried googling some of the characters, but unfortunately found out some major spoilers, so I wouldn’t recommend that to anyone.

    I did that too :(

  2. Martha McFadden

    I finished the book around 4 weeks ago. Clearly, I read it quickly. I think that helps a lot to keep the story alive and coherent. Much to my surprise, I actually liked the war parts.

  3. I have always thought I want to read this book someday, but I find it very intimidating so have never tried yet. My mind always wanders during battle scenes too, especially when I read them in books.

  4. I confess, I’m struggling. I’m still in Part 1 but while there are moments of beauty in this text I don’t think I’m gripped. I’m not so bothered by the various characters and I do quite enjoy some of the banter and the social intrigue, but I don’t feel as though I need to know what happens next … Help! Should I struggle on or quit now??

  5. I really struggled reading this part all in one go. I am going to try to spread out part three a bit more although probably not one chapter a day. Maybe a few chapters a day and then take a break like Livia suggested.

    I also have similar thoughts to you about reading the war sections without women-you’re not the only one feeling that way!

  6. I haven’t found the right strategy for reading this book yet either. I ended up reading most of this section in the last few days of February and had forgotten a lot of what I read in January.

    Like you, I struggled with this part because I don’t find battle scenes very interesting and I missed the female characters too. I’ll keep reading though, and hopefully Part III will be more enjoyable!

  7. we`ve just finished reading this book at school and discussing about it) *fortunately*
    il took me the whole month to read all the book last summer!)
    Aw, i see you`ve already got acquainted with “Anna Karenina”! Personaly, I think, it`s the mosr interesting of his books)

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