Well, I’m caught up.  How amazing is that?  And here’s this very quite but beautiful chapter where we see Natasha’s slow recovery from her depression.

It’s interesting to read that she’s written off Pierre still being interested in her.  On the one hand, I’m rather glad that they’re not going to start an affair, because nobody really wants to think of Natasha as that kind of girl (oddly enough, the fact that Pierre regularly is out drinking and carousing never seems to take away from his character, but we’d hate to think of Natasha involved in that life).

But even more interesting was the fast of St Peters that Natasha goes through with her neighbour.  I thought this was really interesting, and I’m not entirely sure how it works.  But I love the idea of the ritual, that kind of reminds you of cleansing.

So each day, dressed modestly, Natasha and Madame Byelov head off to church in the wee small hours.  And day by day it builds up, until finally, they hit the final Sunday when they can go take Communion, dress in white, and feel cleansed of their sins. 

It’s a strange but beautiful moment in the story.  What’s even stranger, however, is the little superstition Countess Rostova has of spitting at the end.  It’s not so much the spitting that I find strange as the fact that a family that can believe so much in an all-powerful God is still so superstitious on the side. But Russia, I think, can be a strange place.

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One thought on “One-Year War and Peace 9.17 – Finding Peace

  1. Well, firstly, conratulations on catching up, Matt!

    I agree, this is a very beautiful chapter, and beautifully written, too – I just loved the image of this humble, penitent Natasha (even tough I don’t really think she has anything to be penitent about), so demure after the bright, sprightly girl we met at the beginning of the book, decribed, as always, with such simple eloquence by Tolstoy: “…and a new feeling of humility would come over Natasha before the great, the unknowable, when at this unaccustomed hour of the morning, looking at the blackened face of the Mother of God lit by candles and the light of morning coming through the window, she listened to the words of the service, which she tried to follow and understand”.

    I guess a cynic could read this chapter as just another example of people going through complicated, convoluted rituals, ultimately no diffrent to those prescribed by the quacks in the last chapter, to make them feel that they are doing something – but I don’t think that’s how Tolstoy means us to read it. I suppose it comes down to your own belefs about these things whether or not you decide that that is, in fact, all that is happening here. I’m not altogether sure what I think about these things myself – but, at very least, Tolstoy’s writing in this chapter makes me believe in the mystery of it all, at least for a few pages!

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