One of the things that makes this book so unique is actually Tolstoy’s sense of humour. It begins with Andrei’s visit to Emperor Francis where he is required to answer certain set questions about the war – but in reality, he is realising that nobody is particularly interested in what really happened during the battle. But, despite that fact, because the Emperor was interested in him, all of a sudden he’s on the invite list for all the Austrian equivalents of Anna Pavlovna Scherer.
This is then followed by Bilibin’s rather hilarious account of the fall of the bridge of Tabor. Yes, it is a serious thing – after all, we were on one of those bridges with Nikolai only a few chapters ago – we know how life and death this stuff is. But, nonetheless, here, a little bit removed from everything, the story of the French generals and their sneaky plan just seems quite funny . . .
But without doubt, the highlight of this chapter is the reaction of Andrei. The news that the Russian army is in dire peril, instead of making him worried, inspires him to want to be the man who saves the entire army. It’s the kind of thing an 8-year-old would think of, and a grown man would never admit to out loud.
But this is Tolstoy, and he has a window into his character’s souls . . .