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.

8 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 3.6 – A Return to the Rostovs

  1. This chapter was just perfectly timed – the tears of sadness for Marya from the last few days were replaced today with tears of joy for the Rostovs. The way everyone kept reading, and rereading the letter, and reading into it something more wonderful every time – it was pure gold and, as you point out Matt, even all the more charming when we all know what really happened with Nikolai on the battlefield. But that, for me, just added to how heart-warming I find the Rostovs to be (well, maybe not Vera).

    Another thought occurred to me today, too. I seem to remember you di a bit of a role-call at the beginning of this process, Matt and that most (maybe even all?) of the people who were joining in your challenge were from somewhere or other in Australia. Do you know who is still on board and where everyone is from? It jut occurred to me that it would be kind of wonderful if we could somehow all manage to physically come together on the day of the final chapter, and actually read it out loud. It may be impossible to organise – but maybe worth thinking about. I know that last chapters of War and Peace are, well, rather different from much of what we;ve been reading so far – but, even so, sharing the end of the journey together would be very special, don’t you think?

  2. Ian . . . I am Carly Svamvour – from Toronto, Ontario (Canada).

    I came to Matt’s blogs through Barnes and Noble’s book discussion club.

    As you know, B & N is doing W & P right through to the end of October.

    Currently, we’re on Book 3 – should be going over to Book 4 Sunday night, or Monday morning – not sure.

  3. Are we really being fair to Vera? We don’t really know a lot about her – remember it was said (by her own mother) that she raised her differently than from the way she raised Natasha . . .

    Did her mother raise her to be a snob?

    Is this character going to change as we read through the novel?

    I was particularly saddened to see the way her mother regarded her when she said, right in front of others, please go – can’t you see we don’t want you around?

  4. Hi Carly … thanks for saying hi. As you probably saw, I only joined the blog a couple of weeks ago. In fact, I’m not altogether sure how I found it – but I’m over the moon that I did. I first read War and Peace a few years ago and it made a tremendous impression on me, so I was just thrilled at the thought of reading it again in the company of others.

  5. Yep! Me too! I love this blog, and the chapter by chapter discussion of same. And, chatting with the members of the Epics Book Club at B & N, of course.

    It’s so good to talk about this book. I’m finding in my day to day discussions with people, they do one of two things . . .

    1) say something polite and admit they’ve never read W & P;

    2) surprise me by being able to talk about the segments I’ve just read or listened to on my MP 3 Player.

    It leaves me happily working away at my gardening, with my earplugs nicely in place!

  6. Another read through this one.

    Old Nurse –

    Besides that, he sent greetings to Monsieur Schelling, Madame Schoss, and his old nurse, and asked them to kiss for him “dear Sonya, whom he loved and thought of just the same as ever.

    Pavlovich – Grand Duke Constantine Pavlovich –

    She had opportunities of sending her letters to the Grand Duke Constantine Pavlovich, who commanded the Guards.

    Schelling –

    See quote above

    Schoss – Madame Schoss –

    See above quote

    Singing master –

    “and now she’s in love with that singer” (he meant Natasha’s Italian singing master),


  7. Hi, I found your blog by searching for the Daniel Cooper. Oh, how I wish I could have read along with you all when you did this. I love your discussions in the comments and just had to put in my observation this time.

    As a mother with still young children, I really understood the passage of the Countess’s reflections of her son’s growth.

    “The universal experience of ages, showing that children do grow imperceptibly from cradle to manhood.”

    I’m living that right now. I’ve seen my own children as extraordinary at each stages just the same as the Countess. I was really touched by her thoughts on his growth.

    1. Hi Elizabeth,

      Hope you’re able to enjoy following along in the blog anyway, even if it is a few years later. Completely understand how you can relate to War and Peace. It’s that kind of book which just seems to be very human and doesn’t really go out of date.

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