And now we begin another great Tolstoy set-piece, every bit on the scale of one of the battle scenes we’ve read previously – the New Years’ Eve Ball.

We’re kind of going into Jane Austen territory here – and this chapter especially so, with lots of running around, getting ready, doing the hair right, getting the dress ready, etc.

I don’t think I need to explain much more, do I?  But in case you’ve missed the point – it’s a big party, everyone’s going to be there and the girls want to look their best!  Hey, look, if I had several estates, plenty of servants to do my clothes and money to go around – I’d want to go as well. (Actually, this is the Rostovs – after having been thoroughly cleaned out by Berg, they don’t even need money.)

3 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 6.14 – Getting Ready

  1. I probably can imagine few things more tedious than an aristocratic ball – but even I could not help but be whipped up in the excitement of this chapter. Chapters like this must be a director’s delight when it comes to making films of books, because everything is painted so vividly: every little detail of the mad, frenetic but excited chaos of a household getting ready for a big event. It’s Natasha’s first big ball and so I guess it’s hardly surprising that someone of her exuberance ends up taking charge of everything. I have to admit, Matt, that I have never read Jane Austen – but does she really do all these descriptions as well as Tolstoy does?

    But it’s the little twist at the end that kind of puts a cherry on the top of this delightful chapter – the description of the old and ugly Madame Peronsky. I remembered saying ages ago in response to one of your posts, Matt, that Tolstoy’s writing in some ways reminds me of Mahler’s music, in the way that it puts the profound beside the trivial, the beautiful beside the grotesque, just as happens in life. Madame Peronsky is a perfect example of this. There are not many other writers who would throw in an ugly character, just in the sidelines, in a scene like this, just as there are few composers who throw in street-music, or the clangy clatter of a barnyard, into a symphony. But that’s what makes these artists so unique, so great, and so very, very real.

  2. I hadn’t thought of it in comparison with Mahler, but that is an interesting analogy.

    Have you really never read any Jane Austen?

    Actually, come to think of it, I don’t think I have either, but after watching the famous BBC Pride and Prejudice, I just assumed that I was an Austen expert . . . lol . . .

    Still, you’ve laid down a gauntlet, and maybe we should consider reading an Austen at the rate of a chapter a day, when we’ve finally finished off the Tolstoy.

    Still, that’s a good eight and a half months away . . .

    By which stage I’ll be a father of two – and who knows how much time I’ll have for reading then?

  3. Congratulations, Matt! So there’s to be another wee one! Or are these going to be two new ones? Twins, maybe?
    I must have missed something – I didn’t realize Natasha was actually ‘in charge’ of anything for this event – I thought she was just helping out with all the fussbudgeting . . .

    Ahhhhh! This just in!

    Jeff just sent me an e mail with a link to something mighty interestin’ regarding Sir Anthony Hopkins . . . seems this devine actor is going to be playing the part of Tolstoy in this exciting new movie . . .

    (I just noticed the article’s dated 2007 – ha ha! I’m probably the last person to have seen it. As always . . .)


    Isn’t that sweet the way Count Rostova tells them his wife, the Countess, is the prettiest of them all?


    I did take note of some newbies for the character list:
    Maids (2) – Mavra & Dunyasha –

    Two maids were turning up the hem and hurriedly biting off the ends of thread. A third with pins in her mouth was running about between the countess and Sonya, and a fourth held the whole of the gossamer garment up high on one uplifted hand.

    “Mavra, quicker, darling!”

    “Give me my thimble, Miss, from there…”


    “Well, if it’s too long we’ll take it up… we’ll tack it up in one minute,” said the resolute Dunyasha taking a needle that was stuck on the front of her little shawl and, still kneeling on the floor, set to work once more.

    Old Grandee of Catherine’s Day –

    On the thirty-first of December, New Year’s Eve, 1809 – 10 an old grandee of Catherine’s day was giving a ball and midnight supper.

    Police Master –

    Police were stationed at the brightly lit entrance which was carpeted with red baize, and not only gendarmes but dozens of police officers and even the police master himself stood at the porch.


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