War and Peace Newbies Read-Along | Week One

Welcome one, welcome all, to the first of my weekly progress reports proper for War and Peace. You may have seen my first post from last week but this is the real deal, week 1, actual words of War and Peace have been readFor those unaware, I’m taking part in the War and Peace Newbies Read-along, as hosted by Laura from Reading In Bed, and I will be making my way downtown through this chunker of a book over the next couple of months and, this time, I hope I will succeed in making it through to the bitter end (or at least past around page 200 where I gave up last time).

Every week I will be doing a short progress wrap-up/my thoughts so far on the book, very low key, probably in the form of bullet points, and likely not always coherent. So don’t expect eloquence is what I’m trying to say. Expectations lowered accordingly? Ok, then let’s begin, with Week 1 which covered Part I, Volume I of War and Peace:

  • I work at a University Press and I buzzed a man into the building for a meeting – he spotted War and Peace on my desk (it casts a very long shadow after all) and said “Oh I approve!”. When I was like “oh thanks yeah I’m trying it again, I failed at page 200 last time, I’m not so great with the war bits because my history knowledge is pretty poor” he responded with “Nah I teach the Russians, it’s fine, just skim it if you need to and go along with it”. So I feel like that was vindication from (presumably) a professor in Russian literature to say I’m allowed to not get what I’m reading but just plow merrily on regardless. Thanks, random professor, I shall!
  • Short chapters – praise the lord for serialisation, guys, this makes getting through War and Peace so much easier. Plus, either the translation I have (the Anthony Briggs one) or the language itself is actually really readable, what a pleasant surprise!
  • Ok so we have a regular rowdy night on the town with the lads (I presume in modern parlance they would refer to themselves as “the lads” or “the boys” tbh). But are they dancing with an actual bear? That’s not a metaphor for anything? An actual bear? (Are you sure it’s not a metaphor?) So is that normal behaviour for drunken Russian aristocrats? I mean, I don’t want to rain on anyone’s parade here but wtf guys. Hey, let’s all party like the Russians in that case.
  • I already have to keep Googling characters to get a photo of who played them in a TV/film adaptation so I can keep them straight in my own head – please stop having so many extra/pet/formal names everyone! I came up against this problem with Anna Karenina too (another book I attempted and failed at reading), except it’s much worse with War and Peace because there are a bajillion characters. That’s the true actual factual number, I swear.
  • Vassily and the princess (Katishe? idek anymore) keep scheming to cut Pierre out of the Count’s will and to make sure it isn’t known he’s been declared legitimate by the Emperor and they just want the money from Bezukhov’s death and I bloody love it, it’s so catty and her and Anna Mikhaylovna squabbled over the papers they were tried to secrete and it’s practically slapstick at this point. I love how Anna Mikhaylovna can’t keep her nose out of anything, she might be my fave tbh.
  • I also watched the first episode of the BBC adaptation and I really enjoyed it and it undoubtedly influenced what I think of some characters, and confirmed my suspicions on other things.
  • I’m not a fan of the Kuragins, or of Boris, or of Dolokhov, or the Bolkonskys really.
  • I’m confused because I just find Andrey Bolkonsky kind of…. well, petulant. Like oh your life is sooooo hard, poor little rich boy. Idk, maybe it doesn’t help that I’m never very endeared to the dude who plays him in the BBC adaptation (James Norton) but I kind of assumed given that he plays him, that he’ll end up being the hero somehow. Ugh. Either way, I hope he has some character development because I’m mostly finding him unbearable, and not even in the good kind of way.
  • I am really endeared by all of the Rostovs and Pierre, and I still bloody love Anna Mikhaylovna, even more so after watching Rebecca Front just be amazing in the first episode. But let’s see if that continues once we get into the meat of the story, shall we?

And those, dear readers, were my oh so insightful comments about Volume I, Part I of War and Peace. I never said they’d be particularly intelligent so there we go, week 1 is now over, we move onto week 2 and Volume II, Part II of the book – and until next time…

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5 thoughts on “War and Peace Newbies Read-Along | Week One

  1. lauratfrey 10/07/2017 / 17:32

    Oh it’s definitely a real bear. I mean, I have no basis for that, other than, I prefer to think so!!

    I’m conflicted with Andrei. Usually I go for the brooding, complicated rebellious type… but he’s not quite that, is he? He’s actually quite conventional, and too afraid to rebel… he’s got the brooding thing down though. It’s all about Pierre for me. He’s the hero.

    Anna and Catiche and Vassily fighting over that portfolio is comedy gold.


    • Emma 17/07/2017 / 13:45

      I prefer to think it’s a real bear too, because that’s one hell of a night out.

      Pierre is the real hero of the piece, I’m sure of it. No thank you to Andrei – I feel like I’m being set up to think he’s the hero but… I’m not falling for that one, Tolstoy, try again!

      I cling to the comedy gold. And I’m pleasantly surprised that there is as much comedy as there is! :)


  2. Rick @ AnotherBook.blog 10/07/2017 / 17:25

    That’s hilarious that he gave you permission to skip. I actually love that.

    I, too, was laughing at how casually these layabouts were hanging out with an actual bear (baby bear or not). Talk about animal cruelty. Not to mention police brutality, haha.

    I’m a bit surprised by your reaction to Andrei. I didn’t find that he was in the book long enough to really put someone off that much. Maybe the mini-series informed your view. I don’t know, though. I haven’t seen it. What’s his portrayal like? Is it very broody?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Emma 17/07/2017 / 13:48

      It’s official, you heard it here, folks! ;)

      I can’t help but feel sorry for the bear in all of this – it didn’t ask to hang out with a bunch of drunken dudes, let alone be tied to a police man. Poor baby bear.

      I’m just not keen, I feel as though it’s being set up for him to have a huge arc where he “finds himself” (and that does seem to be happening in part 2) and really becomes the book’s Big Hero but he’s just not for me. In the mini-series (which I’m more than sure is affecting my reading of Andrei) he mainly just sulked around for the first episode and he has quite a petulant resting expression when he’s in the society gatherings, so I’m sure this is why I’m not his biggest fan. We’ll see in the next parts to come though! :)

      Liked by 1 person

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