The beauty of this is that, unlike a conventional romance, Andrei doesn’t straight away realise that he’s in love. He just notices that the rest of the world is boring.
I’m not sure whether Tolstoy deliberately did this, but the contrast between this exceptionally boring toffee-nosed dinner party of Speranskis and the exuberance of Natasha and the ball is immense. It’s just so fake and artificial, with jokes that aren’t very funny, that you can’t help but wish you were back hanging out with the Rostovs.
In fact, it’s one of the funny things about reading this one chapter at a time is that we have to stop and think about this chapter at all. If we were going faster, this is one chapter where we’d just want to burn through it as fast as possible to get back to the romance. It’s just so jarring and breaks up the flow.
But this is precisely how Andrei felt. All the talk about reform and change seemed quite stupid by comparison. And also he realised, at the end of the chapter, how little change he was actually causing in the world.
I wouldn’t mind knowing a little bit more about exactly what the changes that Alexander announced in this chapter meant for the Russian government. It wasn’t quite clear to me. So if there are any history buffs out there that want to explain it in more detail, I’m all ears.
However, I’m also happy to agree that it’s not that interesting, and – like Andrei – would rather find out what the Rostovs are up to.
Which we will tomorrow . . .