Hi All! I am excited to review War and Peace, Book 4 today!
Potentially, this is my favorite book thus far. It was a bit shorter than the other books and took place entirely removed from the battlefield. I appreciated the interactions between characters and was surprised by the action in this one too!
In book 4, we start in Moscow where Nicholas Rostov, Dolokov, and Denisov are visiting on leave from the military. They have a grand time reveling in their titles as military men and flirting with Sonya and Natasha. They also interact with Pierre–who is in Moscow and unhappy with life generally. He challenges Dolokov to a duel after learning of Dolokov’s rumored relationship with Pierre’s wife. The duel occurs, both live, and Dolokov is rejected by Sonya–who still loves young Rostov. Meanwhile, Prince Andrew makes it home just in time for the birth of his son. Sadly, his wife dies in childbirth. Later, Dolokov embarrasses Rostov in a gambling card game and Denisov embarrasses himself by proposing at an inopportune time to Natasha. The book ends with the soldiers returning to war and nobody engaged or really in love.
The many story lines in this book made it a fast read for me. I found myself turning the pages and continuing through the chapters anxious to know what happens next. That has not always happened in this novel. It was exciting to be so invested in the story and the characters that I couldn’t put it down.
I grow more and more intrigued by and curious about Prince Andrew’s experiences and emotions after the Battle of Austerlitz. He returns home and seems quite attentive to his dying wife.
- A few words on the poor little princess–it seems everyone knew she wouldn’t live through the delivery of her child. I felt my heart break for her and her family when she gives Andrew the look of anguish and guilt in the climax of her pain. Having gone through childbirth myself, I know it is painful. But I also know it is worth it. I’m sorry she was unable to find the will to live or perhaps at least the peace to die.
We get so little from Andrew during this whole situation that I was left wanting to hear more about how he felt that his wife died and what had happened between the battle and his arrival home.
I became increasingly more annoyed with Rostov and his friends through this book. First he arrives home and spends little time with his family who loves him. Then he basically tells Sonya “thanks for loving me but I need to be a free spirit right now.” And we end with his ridiculous participation in Dolokov’s gambling spree (speaking of whom, I never really have liked Dolokov. Yes, I’m glad he didn’t die in the duel–more so Pierre doesn’t have that death on his conscience. Also I’m glad his mother loves him. But overall, he’s just a jerk who holds an intense grudge). Rostov has no respect for money, self control, or the feelings of others in this book. He can prove himself in future books by acting like the man and heir he should be. For now, I’m rather disappointed in him.
Natasha is a fun character to watch over the time that has elapsed in the novel. She is older but still young enough to be lighthearted and unconcerned about the future. Denisov has good taste in proposing. He just should have been more proper in his delivery. I hope to see more of Natasha in future books.
And can life get better for poor Pierre in book 5? Things seem to continue to go from bad to worse for him. While it’s unclear if/how his wife cheated on him, they certainly are not happily married.
Things that are tricky and/or confusing:
- How is gambling on trust legal? I wanted there to be a loop hole so Rostov didn’t have to pay Dolokov when he was obviously manipulating Rostov the whole time.
- What is the proper way to propose to a young lady of high rank?
- Why was everyone on leave from the army for so long? I thought it would be a few weeks and suddenly it was all winter long.
Themes and questions I am enjoying/pondering:
- How does one discover truth?
- Why is honor so important? How does it affect our actions?
- How does one fall in love? What is the difference between love and passion? We hear of several proposals in this book–but are they really the result of love?
Book 5 starts with Pierre traveling back to St Petersburg and I am intrigued by the conversation he has with a stranger along that journey. I have begun marking more and more of Tolstoy’s beautiful language and morals. Wow, this novel is long and impressive.