War and Peace: Check-In #8

Yay! I just finished August’s instalment for our War and Peace read along as I am writing this. This part certainly felt like it was taking me forever.. Perhaps because it was the longest in the bunch thus far?

As always, Amy has the Mr. Linky and shares a lot of thoughtful ideas on the book herself.

warandpeace2013

So here are some of my thoughts in bullet points:

  • First, I really do think that perhaps it is the spaces of time in between reading War and Peace that makes it less immediately engaging for me. On the one hand, I think it is the fact that I have committed to a one-year read along that has kept me going, and I might have given up before if it weren’t for that. On the other, by reading 100 pages a month I seem to spent 29 days not picking the book up and then one day reading all the pages at once. It takes me about at least 30 pages to get into the feel of the book again each time.. So you can see how that might be a problem;
  • As Amy says, there seems to be an underlying theme of building nationalism and heroism resulting in disillusionment and defeat running through this novel at different points. I might be imagining this, but it sometimes feels like Tolstoy casts religion in a similar role? Although Andrei eventually seems to find peace in religion, it is perhaps the only time I have come across the theme as remotely positive. Whenever religion is broached it is almost placed outside of the immediate personal sphere, casts as somehow very finely intertwined with personal fictions and ultimately emptiness. I cannot shake the feeling that Tolstoy was not a fan of much of the religious landscape of his time, but of course I know very little about him and his context, and I am only going by a gut feeling while reading;
  • I thought the scene about the fine put on speaking French very funny, because in a few pages it seems to capture the pretense of the upper class, and the loss of expression and somehow “identity” upon taking that sign of distinction away. Very funny, I felt;
  • While, as Amy says, I am also not a great fan of Napoleon’s personal scenes, I did think the scenes before battle are very well-drawn. It is never said outright, but in between the lines, there is a definite sense of Napoleon’s personal insecurities and nerves before battle, which I felt were interesting to see described, particularly in contrast with Tolstoy’s big critique of history;
  • As for that critique, Tolstoy is really hitting us over the head with the idea that “history’s course” is not decided by the few big men, isn’t he? I find his argument intriguing, but at times I wonder how truly convincing he has managed to portray it thus far. Don’t get me wrong, I couldn’t agree with him more that nothing is ultimately decided by a few privileged people without other forces or persons also having a say. But it is exactly this latter part of his argument that I cannot yet truly trace fully in his writing. Except for his insistence that winning a battle is about the spirit of the army men, it is his insistence rather than his actual portrayal that carries his argument thus far. I am still waiting for something that will draw it together, that will make it more visible than the tracing of personal lives. I haven’t a clue how that is to be done.. Or perhaps he really does manage to do so, and I am instead still puzzled about this idea of an “outside force” that remains somewhat elusive the whole time.

Enough philosophising for 11 at night. I had better go to sleep and schedule this for the morning. Perhaps I will be good this month and actually pick the book up again before September 29.

6 responses to “War and Peace: Check-In #8

  1. I read this the same way as you, basically all in one go, but I’m liking that. I’m pretty sure I couldn’t commit to reading it every day until it was finished but for some reason, 100+ pages every 30 days works. I’m also trying to just sit back and let it roll over me and not stress to much about following all of the characters.

    • Because I need about 30 pages to get back into the story, I think reading it in one go is the way it works for me as well. Still, the gap between readings leaves me a little uneasy.

  2. I wonder if I could pick up where I left off, like four years ago, and join you half way through! :) Ummm…. I remember being into the people stories, but the war stories… baffling!

  3. Amy @ My Friend Amy

    Lol you make everything I say sound so much smarter!

    yeah I also cram the book but at the same time I’m pretty sure I would have given up by now so I’m not exactly sure what to think about that!

  4. It was your post that actually made me pick up the book again. I have finished two more books since you posted this and I am hoping to be somewhat caught up by the time the end of next month (October) rolls around.

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