Reading for Monday, June 8

And here we see more of the domestic side of the Rostov home – but this time Nikolai’s fiery temper and his habit of getting into punch-ups with unruly peasants. Marya is horrified, but from memory – it’s been a while since we read that chapter – the way they first met was Nikolai punching up some peasants who didn’t want to help Marya escape from the attacking French.

So the very habit that sewed the seed of romance is now the seed of marital discord. But rather amusing marital discord (well, at least I found it funny).

What’s far sadder is what’s happened to poor old Sonya. She just seems to have accepted her place and lumped it. Despite what I (or any other readers) thought she might have deserved, she’s really turning into an old maid at the Rostov’s place . . . and that’s pretty much where this chapter leaves us.

There’s a certain worry about getting near the end of a book like this, because if you don’t like the state that a character is in, you know there’s only a few more chapters to fix the problem, and if they don’t get fixed – that’s it. Forever and ever, that character is going to be stuck in that situation. (A facet of fiction that is played with in a rather light-hearted and amusing fashion by author Jasper Fforde in his zany fiction The Eyre Affair.)

So if this is the last we hear of Sonya, that’s it for her . . . sigh . . .

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One thought on “One-Year War and Peace E1.8 – Fisticuffs and a Barren Flower

  1. In a way, Matt, I don’t quite agree with you on this one – I really don’t think of these characters as frozen in the place Tolstoy leaves them. War and Peace is almost famous (infamous) for having no real “end”, and I think this, along with the enormous humanity that Tolstoy breathed into his characters, leaves us thinking that they will go on, and they will continue to grow and live and love, long after we’ve closed the book for the last time.

    But I certainly do agree with you about the slightly humorous side to the simple domesticity of this scene, and the inevitability of this tension between Marya and Nikolai. He was always going to be the brute; she was always going to be the martyr. I guess, though, that one thing about that that is not all that funny is that it is really just a prototype for a million and one other marriages – the “men and from Mars, women are from Venus” phenomenon that so many couples struggle with, and that so many Dr Phils try to solve.

    By the way, keeping up with my daily chapters meant that yesterday was the final chapter – chapter 12 of the second Epilogue. THere’s an appendix in my edition … but I somehow just feel like savouring that for a day or so longer!!

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