Hi all! Today I’m back with a review of the third installment of War and Peace.
Don’t get overexcited by the close publishing dates of the blog posts for 2 & 3. I was a bit behind and posted about book 2 a bit late. They are all starting to blur together in my mind so I knew I had to get going on this post!
In Book 3, we get a mix of life back in Russia and at the front of the war against Napoleon. In St. Petersburg, Pierre has been transformed into the most eligible bachelor because he inherited his father’s estate. However, Prince Vasili’s personal agendas continue to overpower everyone. He is determined that Pierre marry his daughter Helene (which he does) and that Princess Mary (Prince Andrew’s devote sister) marry his son Anatole (which she does not). Meanwhile, the emperors of Russia and Austria inspect and fight alongside the troops in the Battle of Austerlitz–where Prince Andrew is injured.
Book 3 went a lot faster than book 2 for me. I again enjoyed the scenes back in Russia and the witty and quick dialogue. Perhaps I enjoy those scenes more because the situations are more similar to today (actions based on money, love, or self interest). And the battles feel like they are from a distant time. However, the battle of Austerlitz was more intense and exciting because we got to see it from different sides (and not just the details of military minutia). Plus, Andrew is severely injured and we are left without knowing if he lives or dies in Napoleon’s care.
I felt more connected with several characters in this book. My favorite character this time was Princess Mary. I initially found her to be almost annoying because of how much she feared her father. But she holds her own in this book! I love that she declines the marriage proposal from Anatole (or his father) and is true to her beliefs. I hope she continues to hold her ground against those who would force her into other situations.
I also gained more of a respect for Prince Andrew. He has seemed rather arrogant and selfish (leaving his wife pregnant and apparently not in love with her in book 1). Suddenly, I found myself cheering for him. I was annoyed at Nicholas Rostov for insulting him (and for being a stuck-up rich boy in general). But applauded Andrew’s efforts to help Boris with a promotion and to lead the charge in the battle at the end of book 3. I was impressed that he was so patriotic and so disinterested in his own personal affairs. I am intrigued by the journey he is going on as a married man, soldier, and now prisoner. Also I seriously hope he lives!
The character I felt most sorry for in this book was easily Pierre. He seems to be pulled in every direction–only because of his large fortune. I don’t think he will be happy in his marriage. And I’m sorry for it. I am reminded of his conversations with Prince Andrew early in the novel about marriage and women. It seems he is mirroring Andrew’s unhappiness in marriage. I hope to see them both more satisfied, and even more happy, as the novel progresses (because again, I refuse to believe Andrew is dead!).
Things that are tricky and/or confusing:
- Titles: why are so many people called prince and princess?
- Name and characters–it doesn’t help that there are often similar names who are friends like Denisov and Dolokov.
Themes and questions I am enjoying/pondering:
- What does it mean to be patriotic?
- How does one achieve a happy marriage? We see examples of both happy and unhappy marriages.
- Why is honor so important? How does it affect our actions?
I am already loving book 4 because it has started in Russia. The pace is still rather slow but I enjoy connecting the two locations of the novel. And I continue to marvel at how Tolstoy creates characters and settings through his impeccable language.