The Bolkonsky awkwardness continues with this dinner party scene. (You may feel that all Tolstoy writes is a long string of parties and dinners strung together – and that’s possibly not a bad description of Book 1 of War and Peace.)
Marya – petrified of her father, but unable to say a bad word against him. Andrei, taking great delight in getting into arguments about politics and war with his old man, even though he can never win.
But, to me, most tragic of all, is what’s unspoken in this scene. Maybe I’m reading it through modern eyes, with a few decades worth of pop psychology having infiltrated my brain – but it seems to me that you’re dealing with a father who loves his children, but simply does not know how to show it.
He talks as if he doesn’t care that Andrei is going to war. He wants to read Marya’s letters for fear she might be “writing rubbish” – but the fact that she is locked away from all other companionship doesn’t seem to worry him. But, at the same time, Tolstoy gives us enough glimpse of his unspoken love to make the man understandable.
In fact, while this situation is rather extreme, I’m sure many of us can relate to this picture of family awkwardness.
And . . . big cheer to everyone . . . you will have finished Book 1. There you go!