I completed the Book1 of War and Peace and some 300 pages in the book. And there are so many thoughts in my mind which I want to document. And hence I thought to create these diaries to share my thoughts with each volume. These diaries might contain spoilers so you can skip them if you haven’t read Book 1 yet. Although I feel there isn’t much spoiling in terms of the story in Book 1, all that is told is already known in history.
Tolstoy is an amazing storyteller. He paints the whole picture in your mind in a way that there are times I felt myself to be present at the scene itself. There is a lot of imagery like the description of soldiers’ movements with the sea, metaphors of clocks and machinery, Nickolai noticing the beauty of nature in the horridness of the war, the metaphorical way of representing clearing of fog and the sky in the war scene with the thoughts of Prince Andrei. On every such scene, I just get awed and frantically annotate the book.
There are lots of serendipity moments too in the book. Moments where people feel themselves to a puppet and are driven by fate.
There are also moments where soldiers are romanticizing the war, with a lot of daydreaming for the glory of victory, the patriotism, and love for the monarch, and the willingness to die for him. There are also moments of realization where soldiers identify the importance of life and the unimportance of all they know. All of such varied emotions are portrayed masterfully in just 300 pages of the book and there are 1000 pages yet left to read.
The switch between war scenes and ballroom and drawing conversations in Moscow and Petersburg forms a very nice contrast and is beautiful to read.
One of the most beautiful things I feel about Tolstoy is that he presents every character in layers. You discover new bits about the character in each passing scene and hence your thoughts and impression do change a lot as the story progresses. And I think I am going to uncover a lot of other things about these characters in the coming book, but these are the few prominent characters which impressed me so far.
Pierre comes out as my favorite from the beginning. He is not well-polished for society and hence not liked by many. But because of that only I find him honest, kind-hearted, and likable. I loved the fact that his attitude hasn’t changed after coming to fortune and I feel genuinely sad for him when he was being manipulated by Prince Vasyli. His fear of not disappointing people made him agree to marriage which he, the poor guy, thought is based on love.
Prince Andrei is another prominent character in Book 1. Initially, it is very difficult to really like him. He is married and is going to have a child but he is deeply unhappy in his marriage. And for that, he is going to war to seek glory and find purpose. We can clearly see that he is a changed person when he is at the war camp. He is liked as well as feared by his subordinates and he takes his duty seriously. But the defeat in the last war has really given him a new perspective to see things and that whole transformation was really touching.
Nikolai Rostov presents the point of view of a soldier in the war. I have a very mixed feeling towards him. At times he has shown a lot of strength of character while standing against a senior officer for principles but there are times when he was telling lies about his war victories to his friends. I think there will be a lot more of him to discover in the future.
Natasha seems to be an important character, but there is not much that has happened around her in Book1. She is still a child and I hoping to see more of her in the coming books.
Princess Marya is a religious and simple girl. Sometimes I feel very sorry for her. The whole affair of her marriage proposal with Anatole was quite wretched.
The characters that I absolutely don’t like are Prince Vasyli and Anna Mikhailova. Both of them are opportunistic people who just have to butt themselves in every situation to get the best for themselves.
There are so many other characters too, as mentioned in the introduction there are more than 600 characters in the book. And I am not Tolstoy to write another saga talking about his characters. So, I will end here and maybe talk about them in the next post. Till then Happy reading 🙂