Reading War & Peace #12: One Woman’s Journey to Healing a Broken Leg

* translation: Louise and Alymer Maude, WORDSWORTH EDITION (for page # references)

It’s a wrap, folks. I finished the book on Friday, and then it took me a couple of days to get over the shock. I’d technically been reading this book since 2015 because I’d never really admitted to myself that I had quit, so for the past two years I’ve had it shaming me through my “currently reading” Goodreads list. And now it’s over.

So seven years into the future everyone has gotten over all the dead people and half of their kids are named after them. Nicholas (who obviously didn’t listen because clearly none of them have been listening to me) married Mary, and to my surprise they actually turned out to be the best couple in the entire novel. Relatively respectful, caring and mindful of each other. Natasha and Pierre also got married, and while it sounds like Natasha is a great mother it pretty much seems like her well-developed character sort of dwindled down to being Pierre’s other half. Well, we’ve already discussed Tolstoy’s lovely portrayal of women so that’s not much of a suprise. The countess is slowly dying, and who can expect more from a woman who lost both her husband and youngest son in such a short period of time. Sonya sounds more like a piece of furniture than a person, as she whiles away her life, lonely and alone, in the shared Rostov household. I definitely would’ve preferred more story time versus the impossibly complicated historical science theories that came afterwards, but, all in all I feel like Tosltoy did finish things off nicely, leaving us with a good idea of what ended up happening with everyone.

As for the epilogues themselves. Well. To do them justice, I think we need to discuss each one seperately, otherwise it’s really unfair to the first one, that was actually pretty pleasant. There were a few philosophical chapters that were interesting and easy to understand. In general, most of Tolstoy’s musings throughout the book were pretty reader-friendly. Sometimes it did take a second read-through to figure out what was going on but it was always fun to follow once you got the hang of it. As for the plot part of the first epilogue, as I mentioned above, I think it was a fair way of ending things for us, as in, we got the reward we deserved for finishing this neverending story. With some sexism, of course, but we’ve already gotten used to that, haven’t we?

And then there’s the second epilogue. No. Just… no. I feel like Tolstoy decided to (ab)use the fact that we were already so close to the end that we’d all say “ah, might as well finish it” to pressure us into reading whatever the heck was going on there. I didn’t want to feel as if I was just powering through for the sake of saying I’d read it, so eventually I did manage to understand what he was trying to say, but I had to read every sentence more than twice. It was kind of ridiculous. Afterwards I read my mom a random paragraph out loud and her face at the end was what you’d draw to accompany the phrase “wat.” in a dictionary. Embarrassed laughter mixed with pure fear. I feel like even though there were some good ideas, and the topic as a whole – in short: mankind’s free will and its relation to the progress of history – was fascinating, by the end I was just exhausted. (If you really want to know more, check out the analysis and summary I found on Themester’s “War and Peace” Book Club.) I’m sure I’ll think about it some more and read about it some more and eventually reach the conclusion that the second epilogue was JUST BRILLIANT and FANTASTIC and GENIUS, as always happens to me, meaning I form a very clear negative opinion of something and then read too much about it and change my mind, but for now you all deserve my initial, no bullshit reaction which was a simple “no thanks”. Yelled out loud. From the rooftop. With a megaphone.

So that’s that. Two and a half months ago I had a gigantic book in my hands and a cast on my leg, and now here we are, one surgery later, cast free and with a cane in hand instead. As promised, I will be posting one last War and Peace journey post, covering the entire experience as a whole, some time between now and next Tuesday.  Thanks to everyone who’s been following so far. This commitment, right here, is the main reason I managed to make it through to the other side. (It only took about four more weeks than my initial plan, but no one except you has to know that.)


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