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Archived 2015 Group Reads > War and Peace, Week 3

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message 1: by Jess :) (last edited Jan 18, 2015 09:33PM) (new)

Jess :) This week's reading takes us through the ending of Book 1, Part 1. This section was on the shorter side, so I hope this gave everyone a chance to catch up!

Please post your comments for this week's section. I'm not so worried about the chapter divisions for this section---everything from Part 1 is open for discussion.

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In the latter part of Part 1, Marya and Lise are reunited at Bald Hills. The women meet with embraces and tears, although the two hardly know each other. This display rings false to Andrei. Do you agree?

We learn from Marya that the stern, controlling elder Prince Bolkonsky is providing for both M. Bourienne and Mihail Ivanovitch. He also seems to be genuinely happy to care for Lise in Andrei's absence. In last week's thread, Meghan describes Bolkonsky as a "big old softie". After learning of his charitable actions and concern for his son, would you agree?

In case there was any doubt, Andrei plainly admits that he does not love is wife. In contrast, Andrei is tender and even indulgent toward his father and sister. Andrei leaves for the war, but not before his father promises to send for a doctor when Lise delivers the baby. Has your opinion of Andrei changed?

Prince Nikolai Bolkonsky immediately understands his son's feelings toward Lise and seems to have a great deal of empathy. How similar are the two men? Is Andrei a younger version of Nikolai?


message 2: by HeyT (new)

HeyT I don't think that Andrei is quite a younger version of his father but I kind of think that maybe his opinion on his wife and society women is informed from his father and that's why his father saw through to his true feelings so readily.


message 3: by Hilary (new)

Hilary (agapoyesoun) Oh yes, the hero Andrei off to war! What a cynical cover for nothing more than an escape from his, from his point of view, loveless marriage. Never mind that there's a baby on the way, Andrei. You're a true red-blooded, or ought that to be blue-blooded, male!


message 4: by Anne (last edited Jan 23, 2015 05:12PM) (new)

Anne | 137 comments The reunion between Marya and Lise seemed a bit over the top, but it sort of makes sense when you think about how lonely they might be. Marya seems to be rather isolated from everyone except her father and servants, and Lise is in a loveless marriage. Seeing a supportive face may have been quite a relief for both of them.

Prince Bolkonsky seems to care about his family, but he shows it in counterproductive ways at time. No one really likes to be controlled in the strict ways he imposes. In his farewell, there were some signs of love, but it was almost overshadowed by his other sentiments.

At first I was more ambivalent toward Andrei, but now I think he is a jerk. There does seem to be at least some feelings toward his future child. He did take his wife's worries about the delivery seriously. Maybe the birth of his child will cause a change of heart. I'm not holding my breath on that, though.

Andrei doesn't seem to be that much like his father, but his father's rigid parenting may have shaped who he has become. He may have become a much different man with a different structure at home.


message 5: by Zulfiya (new)

Zulfiya (ztrotter) Hilary wrote: "Oh yes, the hero Andrei off to war! What a cynical cover for nothing more than an escape from his, from his point of view, loveless marriage. Never mind that there's a baby on the way, Andrei. Y..."

I do not think Tolstoy thinks they way you do or I do, for all intents and purposes. The loveless marriage is not his fault - and it is clear throughout the novel. He does not blame Lisa, but she is more unlikable than Andrei, according to the author.
I love what Tolstoy declared about the social justice, and his position on poverty is highly commendable, and he treated his peasants (both before and after the end of serfdom) kindly and tried to educate them and help them financially, but his masculine chauvinistic position is very obvious in the novel. Somehow, Andrei, who was occasionally arrogant, was supposed to be the noble character and the sex symbol :-)


message 6: by Anne (new)

Anne | 137 comments Zulfiya wrote: "I love what Tolstoy declared about the social justice, and his position on poverty is highly commendable, and he treated his peasants (both before and after the end of serfdom) kindly and tried to educate them and help them financially, but his masculine chauvinistic position is very obvious in the novel. Somehow, Andrei, who was occasionally arrogant, was supposed to be the noble character and the sex symbol :-)"

I noticed Tolstoy's advocacy for the poor in Anna Karenina, and I can see signs that it might appear again in this book. I applaud the advocacy, but it would be nice if it was shown more through character actions in this book. The long lectures on the subject in Anna Karenina were so boring they were destroying my will to live. I couldn't wait to get back to the plot.

I noticed the chauvinism too. Andrei is in no way my idea of the ideal man. I'd dump him in a heartbeat.


message 7: by Hilary (new)

Hilary (agapoyesoun) Oops my endless post has not posted! Probably just as well ... ;-)


message 8: by Zulfiya (new)

Zulfiya (ztrotter) I hate when it happens. I always make resolutions to use Notepad or other similar programs, but end up posting in the comment box on goodreads.

Usually it happens to big posts :-) Speaking about conspiracies in the world :-) Goodread can be mischievous!


message 9: by Hilary (new)

Hilary (agapoyesoun) Ain't that true, Zulfiya?!


message 10: by Xan (last edited Jan 21, 2015 02:33PM) (new)

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 251 comments Prince Bolkonsky treats his daughter differently than his son, and I think you can see that attitude in Andrei. Compare their attitudes towards their wives to the Rostov's attitude's towards their daughters. And you can see the strictness of the father in the son. So I'm not ready to consider either a softie.

They are very different in their thoughts on Napoleon's skill. Andrei's view of Napoleon is more realistic, so about this they are quite different. The father's view seems to be one of denial or at least of unwarranted dismissal.

Marja to Andrei: "You are good in every way, Andrei, but you have a sort of pride of intellect."

Marja quoting Sterne concerning the architect and Bourienne, both of whom her father takes care of: "We don't love people so much for the good they have done us as for the good we have done them."

Marja again speaking to Andrei about his attitude towards his wife: "But no one must be indulgent to little weaknesses. Who is free from them, Andrei? You mustn't forget that she has grown up and been educated in society. And then her position is not very cheerful. One must put oneself in everyone's position. To understand everything is to forgive everything. Only think what it must be for her, poor girl, after the life she has been used to, to part from her husband and be left alone in the country, and in her condition too. It's very hard."

I like Marja, not so much her brother or father.

And I like this (when Marja and Lise hug upon first meeting): "Prince Andrei shrugged his shoulders, and scowled as lovers of music scowl when they hear a false note."


message 11: by JoLene (new)

JoLene (trvl2mtns) I agree with Anne regarding the meeting of Marya and Lise. I think that both are very lonely ladies. Also, even though they only met once, they may have started a correspondence (since we know that Marya writes to Julie). Through their letters, they may have developed a deeper friendship. I know that I have met people on on-line forums and developed friendships where I would definitely greet them with a huge hug if we met in person.

I don't really get Andrei's disregard for his wife. She seems a bit flighty and naive, but do we know the circumstances of their marriage? Was it arranged?

Prince Nikolai Bolkonsky seems like a typical conservative old man of privilege. He loves his routine and his family (maybe in that order). I'm sure that Andrei is a product of that environment. What I wonder is if Andrei is really a romantic guy and believes in love and is so disappointed that he doesn't love his wife that he treats her with contempt. During that time, I'm not sure how common it was for people to marry for love (vs duty).

Zulfiya -- the comment that Andrei is supposed to be a sex symbol made me laugh. However, it is a trope in many romance novels that the hero is arrogant. Possibly by showing Andrei's background, we are supposed to start to feel sorry for him.


message 12: by Amy (new)

Amy (amybf) I am thoroughly enjoying reading everyone's thoughts on this book. Every comment makes me rethink what I've read. Thank you to all for enhancing my reading experience!


message 13: by Zulfiya (new)

Zulfiya (ztrotter) JoLene wrote: "I agree with Anne regarding the meeting of Marya and Lise. I think that both are very lonely ladies. Also, even though they only met once, they may have started a correspondence (since we know th..."

I know - it was a sarcastic and tongue-in-cheek statement:-) This is the tone and the general mood of the interpretation we were taught in high school. I was buying it at that time because I believed that I did not understand Tolstoy. Then I re-read the book again as a student, and I was appalled. Read again (for the third time, but I had to read it as a part of my job), and I was even more appalled :-)


message 14: by Zulfiya (new)

Zulfiya (ztrotter) Having said that, I admit that Tolstoy was an excellent writer, and I support some of his socially oriented ideas, but his ideas about women .... make my hair stand on end. I also understand how and why he is considered one of the greatest.
On second thought, Lisa annoys me too.
Has anyone found likeable feminine characters so far?


message 15: by Emu (new)

Emu It was interesting reading about Marja giving Andrei the icon. It reminded me that I once had a Russian colleague who had two icons at her desk. They were only cardboard with religious pictures, but to her they were really sacred. I wonder if it is a typical Russian tradition to have icons for good luck or good health.


message 16: by Zulfiya (new)

Zulfiya (ztrotter) It is. People might not be religious in conventional sense - they do not go to services, neither are they very knowledgeable about the religion they think they belong to, but many people do have religious icons like that.

As a non-religious person, I find it more symbolic and totemic and even a bit pagan than actually religious. I attribute this to the total denial of any religion during the Soviet Time, and then when freedom of conscience was not an issue, religion returned back in this quirky, idolatrous way. Icons are more like symbols and talismans rather than attributes of religion.


message 17: by Meghan (new)

Meghan Emu wrote: "It was interesting reading about Marja giving Andrei the icon. It reminded me that I once had a Russian colleague who had two icons at her desk. They were only cardboard with religious pictures, bu..."

It is a Catholic thing, similar to the Roman Catholics wearing/carrying a saint medallion (like Saint Christopher for travelling).


message 18: by JoLene (new)

JoLene (trvl2mtns) I think that the most likable female characters so far are Marja and perhaps Julie. Otherwise, it seems that all females are vapid or conniving.

I have been reading 2 versions --- I have the PV translation physical book and the Maudes version on kindle. Depending on where I'm reading I switch back and forth. I like PV because there are lots of footnotes, so I was reviewing the last section that I read on kindle last night and came up with a question.....

Does anyone know why Andrei was laughing at the "family tree" that he saw at his father's house. I could not tell if it was because it was tracing his family back to royalty that wasn't true OR if it was because the man pictured with the crown resembled his father.

I have noticed sometimes there are things that are happening that I don't always understand regarding interactions of people .....like we are getting a glimpse but not the whole story. I'm not sure if this is intentional or I'm just trying to read too fast.


message 19: by Meghan (new)

Meghan I have to go out on a limb and say there aren't any females I dislike. I think Anna P. and Anna M. are no worse than the men (like Prince Vassily or Count Rostov) in terms of cunning or frivolity. They are part of the elite and use the societal rules to their favor. Hélèna and Lise are products of their social stature and times--what a female of marriageable age should strive to become. If Tolstoy portrays them harshly, I think it is more as a portrayal of the wealthy than of women in general.

Natasha is probably my favorite. She is the only one who shows any spunk. Being so young, she has room to be forgiven. Although compared to the older Lise and Hélėna, there seems to be more indulgence given in Moscow society versus the more conservative Petersburg.


message 20: by Deana (new)

Deana (ablotial) Anne wrote: "At first I was more ambivalent toward Andrei, but now I think he is a jerk. There does seem to be at least some feelings toward his future child. He did take his wife's worries about the delivery seriously. Maybe the birth of his child will cause a change of heart. I'm not holding my breath on that, though."

It seemed to me that he only cares insomuch as the baby might be male and therefore an heir for him. I do worry what will happen if the baby is female :/ A lot of times, the men seemed to blame the wives for having babies of the 'wrong' gender, and since his relationship with his wife is already not so great, it could put it over the edge.

I also agree with JoLene's point that perhaps it was an arranged marriage. Many of the other marriages in this novel seem to be arranged, so perhaps Andrei was never that interested in marrying Lise in the first place, was hoping he'd learn to love her but has been sorely disappointed because she has been so unhappy. It does put a different spin on their relationship to think of it that way.

Meghan, I agree, Natasha is my favorite female so far. But I think that's because she's so young and has yet to have fallen into the "game" that the other women have to play.

I also found Mary's action's with the charm and her statements about her father's religion to confirm our suspicions last week that much of her letter to Julie was for her father's benefit, rather than reflecting what she really believes.


message 21: by Jess :) (new)

Jess :) Deana wrote: "Anne wrote: "At first I was more ambivalent toward Andrei, but now I think he is a jerk. There does seem to be at least some feelings toward his future child. He did take his wife's worries about t..."

Based on Andrei's conversation with his father, I'm leaning against this. The father shrugs off the sorry state of Andrei's marriage with the thought: "well, she's pretty, it can't be helped" (paraphrasing as I've forgotten the exact wording). Based on this, I think Andrei fell for Lise.


message 22: by Deana (new)

Deana (ablotial) Ahh that's true, I'd forgotten about that comment. I suppose it could have been one of those where he saw her and thought "oh she is so beautiful i must have her" and then proposed shortly thereafter without taking the time to get to know her.


message 23: by Renee (new)

Renee M I think there's reason to believe that Andrei did fall for Lise, but also that it was the infatuation of a romantic boy. It certainly seems to me that he fell for the externals. She was very beautiful and popular and sought after. But, then he got her home and she wasn't smart enough for him. So he got bored. It doesn't even matter that she seems nice, even sweet-tempered. She didn't live up to his ideal. Andrei will either grow up or cause a lot of misery for himself and everyone else.


message 24: by Xan (last edited Feb 17, 2015 06:09AM) (new)

Xan  Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) | 251 comments My interpretation of courtship in the aristocracy of 1800's Europe:

"Hello. I only met you yesterday, but I think I like you."
"I like you too"
"Let's get married."
"Yes, let's do."

There are variations on this theme, everything from position to dowry to more devious reasons, but not knowing someone very well before proposing or accepting a proposal seems to be standard practice among the upper crust from England to Russia during this time period.


message 25: by JoLene (new)

JoLene (trvl2mtns) Xan --- love your characterization.

I also got the impression that perhaps it was an arranged marriage as many were among nobility. Yes, there might be minimal say for the parties involved, but given the heavy hand of Andrei's father, I think it might be difficult to go against his wishes.


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