Now that I’m able to read it slowly, the interaction between Nikolai and his father is even more poignant here, when we remember the earlier descriptions of Count Rostov as a gambler (part of the reason for his financial problems), we realise that Count Rostov is seeing – to his great sadness – the same character flaws in the son.
How can he condemn in Nikolai what he has often been guilty of himself? But yet there is that beautiful moment when Nikolai finally begs his forgiveness.
Then, in the meantime, we have the somewhat amusing (as long as you’re not Denisov) proposal to Natasha and its subsequent refusal. I’ve always had some pity on a guy who gets steeled up to ask the question, only to be given the flick. And by the girl’s Mum, no less! Still – he probably could have thought of the age gap before proposing to a 14-year-old . . .
I’m fast appreciating Tolstoy’s way of wrapping up the individual parts of War and Peace. Each part almost starts to feel like a little novella with characters that we’re familiar with, rather than one big whole. But isn’t that what life feels like? A series of little moments, rather than a big epic story?