Like a little calm oasis in the middle of the storm, we return again to the home of the Rostovs. After the skullduggery and manipulation of Prince Vassily and friends, it’s actually quite nice to be among the far more innocent Rostovs.
Yes, the Count is a bit of a gambler, the Countess is a worry-wart, and Vera is still an unpleasant snob – but these are all mild human flaws. We can understand and find them amusing, rather than disturbing.
It’s also nice to get back to a chapter that has a sense of fun to it. Nikolai’s letter arrives, and watching the grand mechanisms of Anna Mihalovna (Boris’ mum, in case you’re completely lost – but then again, do you remember who Boris is?) as she eases the Countess into reading the letter – all of this is gently humorous.
I just love the way that the characters have been so strongly defined back in Book 1, that when we rejoin them here for just one chapter, they act the way we expect them to. Natasha is completely independent and full of fun. Sonya is deep and passionate. Petya is impulsive. Vera is – well, she’s still a snob (and her mother is still wondering who she gets it from – carrying on the joke from Book 1).
Also, because this is War and Peace and it shows us the world both on the battlefield and off it, we get to see how people react to war news, when a letter is the only thing you’ve got to go on. Notice how Nikolai is so bravely wounded. (When we know the reality is that he threw his gun at the French and ran for the hills . . .). Notice how he talks about Denisov, but the countess feels her son must be so much braver than all of the other soldiers. We have seen both sides of it, and know the truth. But it’s so much more romantic in the mind of the Countess.
Much to find amusing in this chapter – and also a segue into the next where, whether you like it or not, we’re going back to the battlefield (sorry, for all you soap fans, who were hoping for a bit more drawing-room intrigue . . .)
See you tomorrow.