Thursday, 1 September 2011

War and Peace: Books Eleven and Twelve

Spoilers, of course.

Book Eleven:

Helene converts to Catholicism and wants a divorce so that she can marry one of her two lovers; only she doesn’t know which one to choose. She sends a letter to Pierre which he of course doesn’t receive as he is at battle.

Pierre leaves the battle field and is later told of the death of Anatole and Prince Andrew. He is told that since he is a Mason, he should leave the country immediately. Pierre goes home, reads his wife’s letter and leaves.

The Rostovs are still in Moscow packing. Natasha allows wounded soldiers to stay at their house as they are about to leave. Prince Andrew is brought to their house. The Rostovs decide to leave their things and let the wounded have the carts.

Napoleon reaches an empty Moscow.

French soldiers plunder Moscow and set it afire.

Pierre remains in Moscow because he wants to kill Napoleon, but is arrested by the French on his way.

Natasha finally sees Prince Andrew who says that he loves and forgives her.

Pierre gets arrested by the French.

Book Twelve:

Helene is said to be ill and then dead.

Meddling women are trying to get Nicholas Rostov and Princess Mary together. They meet and are in love but Nicholas still remains faithful to his promise to Sonya. She however sends him a letter freeing him of his promise and Nicholas and Mary become “intimate”.

Princess Mary goes to see her brother just before he dies.

This is such sadness; and not just because my favourite character Prince Andrew dies, but also because of the horrors that Pierre has to witness. The way that Tolstoy describes the executions is harrowing. This:

“They could not believe it because they alone knew what their life meant to them, and so they neither understood nor believed that it could be taken from them.” – p 760

As much as I love Tolstoy’s wit, I think I must concede that his brilliance lay in the way he sets a scene and just draws you in so deeply that you forget that you’re an outsider looking in; their sorrow becomes your sorrow and so you grieve.

These ‘books’ are full of Tolstoy’s own views of the French and the way Moscow came to burn, which is understandable. I can’t really say that it deflects too much from reading, but it’s slowly becoming more and more apparent and I’m hoping he’s going to save the rest of it for the epilogues.

I’ve actually finished the book now, but I just want to post this little write-up that I wrote earlier, as the review will be far too long otherwise (which is why I started in the first place). I’ll post the review of the entire thing tomorrow.

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