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Archive 08-19 GR Discussions > War and Peace 12 Week Reading Group

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message 1: by Cathy (new)

Cathy | 51 comments Nophoto-f-25x33 Welcome to the War and Peace reading group. Many people have shown interest in tackling this epic novel. I'm sure people's interest and motivation will ebb and flow, so encouraging each other and staying involved in the discussion should benefit each reader.

Some people have started reading and the feedback is positive. It's not as difficult as I thought it would be--although the book is heavy and cumbersome!

Here is the schedule and some general guidelines to get us all started:

1. Our official kick off date is Monday, February 2.
2. The reading week will run Monday through Sunday.
3. Our goal is to read 100 pages per week or 14-15 pages per day. YOU CAN DO IT!!!!
4. The weekly discussions will apply to that week's reading or past readings.
5. This schedule is based on the newest translation, but as I have mentioned before, no matter what translation you are reading, you will probably average 85-120 pages a week. I scheduled the reading to run Monday through Sunday, so everyone can have the weekend to "cram read".


Week 1 2/2-2/8 Introduction, notes, and pp. 1-100
Week 2 2/9-2/15 pp. 101-200
Week 3 2/16-2/22 pp. 201-300
Week 4 2/23-3/1 pp. 301-400
Week 5 3/2-3/8 pp. 401-500
Week 6 3/9-3/15 pp. 501-600
Week 7 3/16-3/22 pp. 601-700
Week 8 3/23-3/29 pp. 701-800
Week 9 3/30-4/5 pp. 801-900
Week 10 4/6-4/12 pp. 901-1000
Week 11 4/13-4/19 pp. 1001-1100
Week 12 4/20-4/26 pp. 1101 to the end!

message 2: by Maria (new)

Maria | 92 comments I hope I'm not jumping the gun with posting some comments. Not sure if Cathy was going to post some discussion questions each week or if this was going to be open for general reactions/thoughts for that week's readings. Here's mine! :
I read the intro very quickly- I may come back to it later. The character intros were very helpful to get oriented - as that was really hard for me at first. I'm not reading every footnote from the back of the book although I know there is a lot of background there. But I have read many of the footnotes and also googled and wiki'ed on some of the history from the book which is fun and interesting. (I know hardly anything about Napoleon.)
At first I was a little off-put and uninterested in the high society salon of the 1st chapter. But I think that was kind of the intention. But am now interested in Pierre and his "unique" opinions and lack of high society polish. Andrei's father prince Nikolai Bolkonsky struck me as a pretty odd and interesting character as well.
All in all, the reading has become much easier now that I'm a little ways in and enjoying it very much !
Hope it continues that way for me
PS One small peculiar thing that made me wonder about - is the 2 or 3 times mentioned Lise's " short upper lip with its mustache" Huh ???!!! This is Andrei's wife who is otherwise described as a cute and charming lady. Just seems an odd thing to mention not once but at least twice.

message 3: by Karen (new)

Karen (kkdmsn) Cathy: you are a slave driver my friend! Actually that is what it will take to get me through this book. Thanks for the schedule. I appreciate the message by Maria. I concur with her thoughts. I keep looking in the mirror to see if my mustache is showing yet! I had trouble with the Russian names, nicknames and titles. I think the royalty background just makes this harder to get into. Thanks for leading this Cathy. A great challenge for me.

message 4: by Cathy (new)

Cathy | 51 comments Hi all,

I plan to present some questions each week, but also encourage others to also pose their own! I only ask that we stick to the current week's reading or any previous readings.

For those of you getting started, Maria's comments are very helpful.

The book starts out with members of the intelligentsia enjoying a "salon" evening. Remember as you read, that the we are only a few years removed from the French Revolution which resulted in a couple of infamous beheadings!

Just a hint, when I see the French text, I jump right down to my footnotes--it speeds up the reading. I took French in high school, but that was decades ago!

So far, I'm amused by the characters I've met and how opinionated they are as they discuss Napoleon and their own Tsar. Talking about politics at a social gathering--some things never change!

message 5: by Meg (new)

Meg (megvt) | 3069 comments I really liked how they kept coming back to the little princess with the moustache and how they thought that was endearing. Every time I read it I laughed.

I loved the first chapter dealing with the family. I am taking notes and using post its to keep my mind straight.

message 6: by Annette (last edited Feb 03, 2009 03:24PM) (new)

Annette (annette_marie_reads) | 17 comments I just got my copy today, I am excited (and slightly overwhelmed) to start reading this!

message 7: by Maria (new)

Maria | 92 comments I thought I might not be the only one laughing about the little mustached princess comments. I think its actually kind of sweet to think that Tolstoy thought it was sort of an endearing flaw. I'm so used to our modern pluck, wax and bleach standards of beauty!
Thank you Cathy for setting up the schedule. I love how you compare the salon to a dinner party today discussing politics - yep sounds about the same!
Meg - I think you were talking about the great quotes in W&P. There a nice little one right off the bat that I like said by Prince Vassily on page 15.
"..Nothing is so necessary for a young man as the company of intelligent women."
I'd love to hear other quotes people like!

message 8: by Meg (new)

Meg (megvt) | 3069 comments I love that quote! Thanx for bringing it to our attention. There will be a lot more.

message 9: by Lori (new)

Lori Walker I'm a little confused now. This week, we're supposed to be reading the intro and first 100 pages or were we supposed to have read that already? I'm hoping to get started this weekend.

message 10: by Cathy (new)

Cathy | 51 comments Lori, we are just starting! Read the intro and the first 100 pages between 2/2 and 2/8. You are right on schedule!

message 11: by Lori (new)

Lori Walker Yay! That's just what I wanted to hear.

message 12: by Cathy (new)

Cathy | 51 comments This book begins in 1805, so I did a little research to find out what was happening around the world. Napoleon, as you recall, was busy conquering the world. Meanwhile back in the United States (which had only been a true country for just over 25 years, Lewis and Clark were traversing the Wild West!


- Napoleon becomes King of Italy
- Naopleonic wars expand his Empire [u.1811:]
- Britian, Austria, Russia and Sweden form the Third Coalition against France.
- Sweden declares war on France
- Lewis and Clark Expedition sets out across North America

message 13: by Maria (new)

Maria | 92 comments Thanks Cathy for the info! I love learning history while reading. Seems like War and Peace would definitely qualify as "Historical Fiction" - which I love to read. No wonder I'm enjoying this book!

Its been especially interesting to me to read the characters arguments about Napoleon and how many admire him but at the same time feel compelled to stop his advances.

Cathy - question about the schedule. Is it expected and ok to discuss the week's reading during that week without worrying about spoiler notices? For example on this past Monday Feb 2, I started talking about the first 100 pages. Was that as planned? Or are we discussing the first 100 pages next week?


message 14: by Cathy (new)

Cathy | 51 comments Maria,

Let's put the question out there...I believe we can discuss the current reading, if we don't give reveal surprises. Since this book is about "war", I suspect some of our dashing princes will fall on the battlefield, and we know early on that one rich old man is near death, and I don't want to spoil that for people by revealing names.

What does everyone else think?

message 15: by Lori (new)

Lori Walker I like that idea because I'm probably going to be lagging behind somewhat because of school reading. But how are the people who are up to speed or ahead going to discuss the book without revealing surprises?

message 16: by Meg (new)

Meg (megvt) | 3069 comments And I am onto page 320 and am afraid to read on in case I say something that didn't end by the reading page limit. I am ready to start mouthing off!

message 17: by Lori (new)

Lori Walker Wow! Aren't you Little Miss Overachiever! ;) That's amazing that you're so far ahead! You're my new hero...

message 18: by Maria (new)

Maria | 92 comments I'm on 183 ! I'm finding it hard to put down!! The first 50 or so pages were more slower for me in getting the characters straight. But now it's a much easier and compelling read - especially because the chapters are so short - keeps you reading on to see what is next!

message 19: by Cathy (new)

Cathy | 51 comments Be patient, grasshoppers! Let's try to keep the discussion to the "current" week's reading!!!!

message 20: by Melissa Rochelle (new)

Melissa Rochelle (melissarochelle) | 18 comments Oh wow! I haven't even started yet! I'm so far behind! I'm trying to finish up my library books before I tackle W&P!

message 21: by Sandy (new)

Sandy (sandila) | 75 comments I'm behind too. It was a long week here......I'll try to catch up.

message 22: by Cathy (new)

Cathy | 51 comments One week down, which means...oh, about 100 pages down! How's it going? The story is interesting, isn't it? Tolstoy has a knack for describing his characters in a way that makes me want to know more about them. Some I like, some I find annoying--which I'm sure was his intent. In the first 100 pages, we meet mostly affluent people, and they tend to be a bit spoiled for my taste. On to Week 2!

message 23: by Karen (new)

Karen (kkdmsn) I find it interesting how he describes the characters as looking different in various circumstances. He must have really studied facial expressions, nuances of non-verbal communication.
The affluent in this book do seem spoiled! It will be fun to see how they change as we move through war and back to peace.

message 24: by Meg (new)

Meg (megvt) | 3069 comments I love his character development and how he picks little quirks and manages to keep bringing them back up every time the characters reappear. I love his description of the little princess with her moustache. He makes her very endearing.

My favorite quote: Never marry until you can tell yourself that you have done all you could. Marry when you are old and good for nothing!`

2nd quote: Flattery/praise is necessary just as grease is necessary to keep wheels turningl

message 25: by Maria (last edited Feb 10, 2009 08:01PM) (new)

Maria | 92 comments Great quotes Meg !
Although I have to say I like Andrei's marriage quote much better by itself outside of the context of the book.
For some reason - when Andrei says it to Pierre in the book, it struck me as a little bit hard on his wife Lisa. Although I do for most part like his character and sympathize with his boredom and impatience with the high society life of gossip and ease. At same time, it doesn't seem like Lise is "that" bad. Maybe its the the little princesses mustache that makes me want to defend her ; )
Andrei is definitely ready for the challenge and sense of duty/purpose of the war. I wonder if this attitude will remain?

message 26: by Maria (new)

Maria | 92 comments The reading for this week (pages 100-200) are entirely about the first contacts that Russian troops have with the Napoleon led French armies as they move eastward across Europe. The chapters contains some military terms that I had to look up. Here's a few of them - if it helps anyone else!

Junker – cadet (officer in training)
Adjutant - an officer who assists a more senior officer
Hussar - light cavalrymen mounted on fast horses, they would be used to fight skirmish battles and for scouting.
Cossack - a traditional community of people living in the southern steppe regions of Eastern Europe
Chasseurs - French light infantry (Chasseurs à pied) or light cavalry (Chasseurs à cheval) troops, trained for rapid action.

message 27: by Meg (new)

Meg (megvt) | 3069 comments Thanx for the definitions, it makes it a lot easier to read.

As for the quotes, yes I like them as they stand by themselves. I remember reading this book 100 years ago and loving quotes from the book. It is so rich and well written.

message 28: by Yoby (new)

Yoby (yobs) | 67 comments Hi, new to this group, just finishing Anna Karenina in another group. Tolstoy didn't think he wrote a real novel till he wrote Anna karenina, because War and Peace did have so much history in it. Now we are used to people that write that way (ie James Michener) But he was very purist about a lot of things.

Throughout his books he has characters saying wonderful things (like the marriage quotte) that said in context makes them seem cruel or ridiculous. Kind of like Shakespeare's quote "To thy own self be true and thou canst be false to any man" was advice given by a gossipy, prying, spying Father to his son who his off to make his own fortune. I din't pick up on that till someone showed me, but would probably be able to spot it if I saw it today. Another thing is that he doesn't bother to show us that the characters truly mean what they say or are thinking, but lets us figure o9ut when they are being self-serving - rationalizing why they do things so they feel okay about their lives.

Not putting in a lot of quotes because I don't want to write a whole paper here, and I also don't want to do a crossover talk from a different novel.

I just enjoy seeing how he did these things.

He didn't like War and Peace that much, but was excited about finishing Anna Karinina - whereas today most people think of War and Peace as his best work, and maybe get around to Anna - so I guess one of the questions is why people think War and Peace is his best, but are too intimidated to try it.

Personally, I read the last chapter, some out of the middle, and then I will start off at the first.

message 29: by Cathy (new)

Cathy | 51 comments Yoby,

I can't believe I have never read W&P before now. I, too, was intimidated by it based on other people's comments. The newest translation is an absolute joy to read. I'm curious about older translations. Maybe some of our readers can share their perspectives. I have read some Russian works by Turgenev (Fathers and Sons) and Dostoyevsky and have really like them.

message 30: by Maria (last edited Feb 12, 2009 09:39AM) (new)

Maria | 92 comments ok...where are all our enthusiatic readers from a couple weeks ago?? ;-)
I hope noone has gotten discouraged by the first few chapters rapid intro to all the characters. There is a lot of websites online that can help with getting started. Here a just a couple that might help :

I also found publisher's (for the new translation) website with a great reading guide :

Here's a couple questions from the reading guide for everyone :

1. Richard Pevear suggests that, “The first thing a reader today must overcome is the notion of War and Peace as a classic, the greatest of novels,and the model of what a novel should be,” and focus on the immediate experience of reading it [p. x:]. What is the experience of reading the first few chapters? What seems clear, and what is confusing? What do you think Tolstoy wants you o experience as the novel begins?
2. Tolstoy distinguishes between characters who have integrity and those who operate more superficially and with greater self-interest in the social worlds of Petersburg and Moscow. What do Prince Vassily’s remarks reveal about him and the way he feels about his children [pp. 6–7:]? What do the conversations at these two parties tell us about the main concerns of the Russian aristocracy? Why is Pierre a disturbing presence at the soirée of Annette Scherer and a welcome presence at the Rostovs’? What are the Rostovs like as a family?

message 31: by Maria (new)

Maria | 92 comments Yoby - That is very interesting what you say about the quotes sometimes seeming cruel when in context of the book. But when taken outside are real gems about life. I didn't know this was the case in other books as well.

message 32: by Beth (new)

Beth | 163 comments Maria - thanks for deciphering the military terms - that is a great help! I am on page 150...almost to 200. I loved the first section about the family and am keeping up with all of the military talk so far in these next 100 pages. I do wish that I was more familiar with the history, but I'm researching, reading the footnotes and learning a lot!

message 33: by Meg (new)

Meg (megvt) | 3069 comments Would you like me to post the history that I posted in another group? I would be happy to do so.

message 34: by Beth (new)

Beth | 163 comments I would love it! Thanks!

message 35: by Meg (new)

Meg (megvt) | 3069 comments The part that I am reading is around 1806. Historically this is what I found:

\Arnold, J.R. & R.R. Reinertsen

The autumn of 1806 witnessed one of history's foremost military geniuses, Napoleon Bonaparte, at the apogee of his power. After easily defeating the vaunted Prussian army, the Emperor Napoleon occupied Berlin. The scale of his victories stunned Europe. He and his veteran warriors appeared invincible. Undaunted, the young Tsar Alexander sent his armies westward to confront the French. The ensuing collisions took place in Poland, one of Europe's poorest, most barren regions. Terrain, weather, and luck played critical roles. Then came a seemingly implausible reversal of fortune when an inexperienced Russian army, riven by command dissension, inflicted a pair of severe checks at Pultusk and Golymin. Napoleon's opponents rejoiced to see the 'Corsican Ogre' falter as he retired to winter quarters to lick his wounds. The Russian armies were not done. Flush with his success at Pultusk, Russian General Leontii Bennigsen assumed overall command of the tsar's forces and launched a surprise offensive. It compelled Napoleon to abandon winter quarters and begin a grueling campaign. Napoleon's brilliantly conceived strategic envelopment miscarried. A five-day all-out pursuit finally brought the Russians to bay on the snow covered ground of Eylau. Here over 140,000 French and Russian soldiers fought a terrible battle. They displayed surpassing courage and moments of inspired leadership, and committed costly blunders as victory trembled in the balance. The battle inflicted nearly 60,000 casualties, leaving thousands of dead and wounded littering the exposed slopes as frozen darkness descended. Then and thereafter, both sides claimed victory, but what was absolutely clear was that for the first time in his career Napoleon had met a foe capable of resisting his sweeping strategic thrusts and tactical flourishes. Using primary sources gleaned from libraries and archives in Europe and the United States, Crisis in the Snows removes the shroud of Napoleon's propaganda to portray the demoralizing reality of the winter campaign in Poland. Napoleon's Grande Armée is revealed not as a smoothly oiled machine but rather a war-weary force whose soldiers doubted that France's security required a march into Poland. Yet, when summoned to battle by a man who possessed a unique capacity to inspire French self-sacrifice, Napoleon's soldiers repeatedly displayed prodigies of valor. Previous accounts have relied upon German historians whose goal was to rewrite the history of Prussia's inglorious 1806 collapse, Bennigsen's self-admiring memoirs, or British propagandists. Russia's warriors have passed into history as walking muskets; stupid, inflexible, but brave and led by inept officers. Crisis in the Snows gives voice to the Russian experience during a pivotal campaign and portrays a very different reality. Well illustrated with portraits, drawings, paintings and maps, and supplemented with detailed appendices on the strengths and composition of the rival forces, Crisis in the Snows provides a novel interpretation of the 1806-1807 campaign that foreshadows the well-known disaster of 1812. Comfortably the best study of this overlooked yet fascinating campaign available.

message 36: by Beth (new)

Beth | 163 comments Thanks Meg!!! I'm almost to page 200 now. : )

message 37: by Meg (new)

Meg (megvt) | 3069 comments I am really enjoying it but I don't want to get too far ahead.

message 38: by April (new)

April (sallysal) | 25 comments I'm behind, but I am catching up :-)
My husband and I are moving to Germany with the Air Force, and getting ready to go has been less than fun :-(
Needless to say, when all of our stuff is gone on Wednesday, I should have plenty of time to read!

message 39: by Cathy (new)

Cathy | 51 comments April,

Have a safe journey. And enjoy your time in Germany! War and Peace will always be there when you are ready to read again. It's so big that it's hard to misplace!

message 40: by April (new)

April (sallysal) | 25 comments I figure it should give me something to read on the long plane ride :-)

message 41: by Lori (new)

Lori Walker I know I was really excited about this group, but I'm going to have to drop out, at least until spring break (and then it will be a matter of being able to catch up and do the rest of my homework). Right now, it's really hard to get through even the shortest books for me, much less trying to read 100 pages per week of a fairly dense (though enjoyable) book. I know we have the weekends to catch up, but I end up spending most of my weekend doing homework. Wish me luck in being able to transcend the BS and catch up.

message 42: by Karen (new)

Karen (kkdmsn) I am about 25 pages behind, but hope to catch up soon. I do enjoy the book, but am confused by all the names and the battles. Thanks Meg for history lesson, it helps. Lori: all of us understand not having enough time for reading. April: best wishes for Germany.

message 43: by Meg (new)

Meg (megvt) | 3069 comments Karen I don't know which version you are reading, but if you are reading the newer version in the front they list the main characters and who they are related to. What I do is make postits and tack them onto pages where there is information that I want to remember. That helps a lot.

message 44: by Maria (new)

Maria | 92 comments I read below on wikipedia today which I thought was very interesting background :

Russian army
The Russian army in 1805 had many characteristics of Ancien Régime organization: there was no permanent formation above the regimental level, senior officers were largely recruited from aristocratic circles (and commissions were generally sold to the highest bidder, regardless of competence); and the Russian soldier, in line with 18th-century practice, was regularly beaten and punished "to instill discipline". Furthermore, many lower-level officers were poorly trained and had difficulty getting their men to perform the sometimes complex maneuvers required in a battle. However, the Russians did have a fine artillery arm, manned by soldiers who regularly fought hard to prevent their pieces from falling into enemy hands.[12:]

The supply system of the Russian Imperial Army depended on the local population and Russia's Austrian allies, with seventy percent of Russian supplies being provided by Austria. Without a sturdy and organized supply system and with overextended supply lines, Russian soldiers found it difficult to maintain combat readiness and good health.

message 45: by Maria (last edited Feb 16, 2009 07:12PM) (new)

Maria | 92 comments Karen wrote: "I am about 25 pages behind, but hope to catch up soon. I do enjoy the book, but am confused by all the names and the battles ..."

Karen - I don't think it is vital to know all the generals/officers names and which unit they command. Nor for the specific battle locations. I think knowing the characters Andrei, Rustov, and Boris are the most important and how they fit into the developing war. I would try not to worry about all the other names!

So glad we've still got a few reading ! But sorry to hear that you don't have time right now Lori - but definitely know how that is whith school - good luck with it! And April - hope you get settled in nicely in Germany. Hey - you will be that much closer to the locations discussed in the book!

message 46: by Karen (new)

Karen (kkdmsn) thanks for the hints! I'm hanging in there.

message 47: by Meg (new)

Meg (megvt) | 3069 comments I think I am the furthest so far. The war parts are a bit boring to me so I skim through those. But, when you get into the social parts it is really fun. I am at a great part now and am having trouble putting it down, not good for tendonitis!

message 48: by Maria (last edited Feb 18, 2009 12:58AM) (new)

Maria | 92 comments - no kidding...this chunkster is unruly
I'm finding it very hard to put down also...the story really progresses along. I'm getting a bit ahead as well - I was trying to hold back a little but then decided to just go with it and read as much as I wanted to. I figure might as well read while my interest is piqued !

message 49: by Meg (new)

Meg (megvt) | 3069 comments Someone in another group is listening to this book on CD. It is a 48 CD collection. He said listening to it is awesome and he is enjoying it a lot. So, if you want a good audio it is recommended.

So I am assuming that we are on pages 100-200 together? I thought it was very interesting that the biggest problem the Russian army had was footgear. When you think about war in the 1800's and the reasons for loss it is things you don't think about. For example, in the United States a lot of our losses were due to dyssentary. Here they talk of footgear

My quotes: Nervitsky "If I were tsar, I would never go to war.
Denisnov "Attacking is a lively is more like target practice."

message 50: by Maria (last edited Feb 18, 2009 06:11PM) (new)

Maria | 92 comments ooh the audiobook sounds great for a long road trip. I also plan on watching the 20 episode mini-series made in 1972 by the BBC after I'm finished reading. Anthony Hopkins plays Pierre. It's on Netflix !
Reading about footwear problems during war is always so hard for me. I can't imagine marching around in boots that are falling apart and having damaged feet. And it's disturbing to read about regular soldier's problems yet read about the somewhat posh accomodations the officers/princes sometimes have.
Nice quotes ! Denisov seems like a funny sort of character. I try to imagine how he talks - the way his words have he extra grr sound in them.
I need to make a note of quotes as I go along!

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