Now here’s a gem of a chapter that I just don’t remember at all from reading last time. After having been included as only a minor character for so long in the book, Tolstoy now shines the spotlight on Julia Karagina and her courtship by Boris Drubetskoy.
While Boris doesn’t have the over-the-top flair of, say, Dolokhov (and where’s he disappeared to? It feels like he should make a reappearance . . .), nonetheless, his calculating style is highly amusing to read about – unless you’re a die-hard romantic.
I couldn’t help but think of Julie and Boris as being a kind of early 19th-century goths. Writing poems about death and melancholy, and getting a perverse joy out of the whole thing.
And here’s Boris – torn between knowing that he just has to say the word, and “her Penza estates and her Nizhnigorod forests” will all be is and a slight twinge of annoyance that he’ll be marrying a girl that he doesn’t love. We also see Anna Mihalovna (his mother) at work here as well, and realise that he’s just a chip off the old block . . .
It’s a funny chapter – if someone like Natasha or Princess Marya was being courted in this fashion, we’d be horrified and want to yell, “No, get away!” – but because we’re not particularly attracted to Julie Karagina, and the way Tolstoy spins the tale, I couldn’t help but get a chuckle out of this chapter.