Reading for Tuesday, 23 December

I must admit, I don’t remember a lot of these chapters last time I read the novel (I think I was starting to speed-read by this stage and take in less).  So a lot of these chapters I feel like I’m reading for the first time.  But then, that is the joy of a one chapter a day regime . . .

Also, what’s making it trickier is that Tolstoy is setting up the vast background details of the war, so everything’s starting to feel a bit “plotless” again.  Remember at the beginning of the novel, how everything felt a bit random and all over the place?  However, by the time we got to the whole Andrei/Natasha engagement subplot, everything felt a lot more plotted and worked out.

Now it seems like we’re back to random territory again.  However, that’s all okay.

So we find this rather surreal little interlude of the Russian soldiers all crammed into the little inn and chatting up the doctor’s German wife.  I’m not sure that the doctor or his wife ever make a subsequent appearance, but that doesn’t matter.  For the duration of this chapter, the scene feels as if it is straight from real life.

The real question is, would anyone want to leave their wife in a room full of Russian soldiers?

2 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 9.13 – The Doctor’s Wife

  1. Surprisingly for me, I actually do remember this chapter pretty well from my first read – or at least this scene in the tavern. I think I just found something incredibly “Russian” about it – but, of course, versions of it probably happen everywhere where there’s a bunch of soldiers getting ready for war. Just as with the 1805 war, Tolstoy is painting for us a wonderfully vivid picture of the people who populate the battlefield – ordinary blokes whose natural way of being is not killing one another, but having some drunken fun together. This could be my nephew, or one or other of the countless young men that we all know, either as family, or as friends, or as workmates, or as neighbours.

    I do kind of feel sorry for the doctor – and you’re right, Matt: he’s ony asking for trouble leaving his wife with all those Russian soldiers – but, even so, part of me wants to just shake him and tell him to lighten up … probably over half of these men will die before they get a chance to come back and drink from his samovar with the dirty water.

  2. Well, the doctor hadn’t really left her there – he was sleeping there all the time.

    I did (being my judgmental self) think his wife was behaving . . . what’s the word? Would it be too harsh to call her a flirtations slut?

    I don’t think so – flirting with a bunch of Russian officers . . . that’s kind of insulting to her husband, I think.

    The Russian officers . . . well, it’s all fair game for them.


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