Reading for Monday, 23 March

But here, in the midst of Nikolai having fun, the issue of Princess Marya comes up again.

Tolstoy paints Nikolai in a strange way. In many ways, he’s quite immature – at the beginning of the evening, he’s completely riling up the husband of the blonde wife he’s chatting up – but by the end of the evening, he’s seeing how he can marry Princess Marya.

He sounds as if he has trouble focusing on any woman except the one that’s right in front of him . . . but that is exactly what makes him Nikolai and not some other character in this novel.

This plot development also starts to seal Sonya’s fate . . .

My favourite moment is when Nikolai, obviously confused by his relationships, finds himself confiding in the governor’s wife. It feels very much like the early 19th-century equivalent of visiting a psychologist.


2 thoughts on “One-Year War and Peace 12.5 – Renewed Acquaintance

  1. Nicholai seems to be in a transition of sorts . . . but I’m at the very end of W & P now – on Epilogue 2 – so I’m identifying with him in a different way now.

    I liked this chapter; it was a bit of fun. The flirtatious wife, the jealous husband – Nicholai playing the part of the big flirt.

  2. I guess I found myself a little torn here – for me, at least, Tolstoy has developed both Sonya and Marya in ways that make me feel a great deal of compassion for them both and so Nikolai, with his trademark Rostov charm, almost naive, is now in a position where we know he will bring happiness to one and sadness to the other. There is an awful harshness in the way that the governor’s wife tries to resolve that dilemma for Nikolai – it all comes down to who has the most money – but we know that there are real people at stake here, because that’s how Tolstoy has painted them. And I believe that Nikolai, for all his youthful flirting, knows this too and is as disturbed by it as we are.

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