This chapter is so well done, that you can just feel the awkwardness like an extra character in the chapter.  Tolstoy breaks out all his detailed writing style to immerse us in the experience.  We draw up to the “gloomy old house”, the count starts acting awkwardly, the flurry among the servants.

So by the time Marya is being unpleasant and the old count makes a crazy entrance in his dressing gown, we can only cringe . . .

It’s especially hard that Princess Marya, who we know is normally the most kind-hearted of women, now finds herself not liking Natasha.  We would have thought that they would be good friends for each other – but not at the moment . . .

Can I take this opportunity to say to the Davis family (now in the Atherton Tablelands above Cairns), that you’re the most delightful in-laws that I could possibly have, and I’m very glad to have married into your family?

3 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 8.7 – A Rather Unpleasant Meeting

  1. Hi Matt,

    I have recently completed my first reading of W & P and found your blog while searching the net for more info on this amazing novel. I finished the whole book in around ten days, reading more for the plot rather than for the nuances, and I’m sure that I had missed a lot. I will be following your blog as I embark on my second round of reading. I am also curious about the social and historical background of the 19th century Russian society depicted in W&P and I hope that the discussions here will give me more information about it.

    About me: I’m a 37 year old Indonesian who lives in Jakarta with my family (hubby, two young children, and a Schnauzer 🙂 ).

    Regarding this particular chapter :
    I have always found the Bolkonsky family dynamics fascinating, much more so than the Rostovs’. The old Prince and his daughter are so vividly described, and in this instance the old man is given a free rein to display his animosity toward his future in-laws. Marya is also not enamoured of Natasha at the first meeting.

    I wonder why Andrei has never bothered to introduce the Rostovs to his own family before he asked for Natasha’s hand. His first wife has never visited Bald Hills before her confinement there and has met Marya only once before, during her wedding to Andrei. Is this usual among Russian aristocracy at that time, or is it a reflection of Andrei’s particular nature and his difficult relationship with his father?

  2. Well firstly, it’s great to have another person on board and so, while this obviously isn’t my blog, welcome to the family, Grace. I honestly cannot imagine someone reading War and Peace in 10 days. That must be some kind of record, surely!

    Anyway, onto this chapter – your description, Matt, of the awkwardness being almost like another character is very apt – and a character who is very much dominating everyone in this chapter. Obviously no one, with the exception of the rather vacuous Mlle Bourienne, wants to be there. But, given all we know of each of these people, in some ways I think it jut ould not have been otherwise and, unlike you Matt, I would not have imagined Natasha and Princess Marya becoming friends at all. Natasha is so full of exhuberance, carried away by whatever the current moment throws in her path, while Princess Marya is so measured, so contemplative and angst-ridden. And yet, on the other hand, I don’t exactly see them as opposites – despite such apparently major superficial differences between them. They both, in their own ways, live life to its utmost – just with very, very different pereptions of what life is really about, and for.

    But as for why Andrei seems to keep his family at such a distance – I suspect that it’s more a feature of the Bolkonskys than of Russian life. After all, the Rostovs were the direct opposite – where, it seemed, virtually no one was a stranger in their home. The Bolkonskys, on the other hand, seem almost to come, if not from another planet, at least from another era!

  3. Hi Grace – and welcome!

    Well, I’m still here . . .

    I’ve read through all these chapters, but haven’t been posting as much. I’m involved in leading yet another discussion forum on W & P, at Reading Group Guides.
    Even though we’re only in the very beginning chapters, it’s kept me busy.

    So I’m up tonight, catching up on the blogs here at Matt’s . . .


    Anybody knowing Old Man Bolkonsky would understand why Andrei wasn’t quick to take anybody to meet him – ha ha!


    Character count . . .

    Footman –

    The footman who had gone to announce them was stopped by another in the large hall and they whispered to one another.

    I don’t think there’s any other ones – so that brings me to 654.


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