Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Vol. I, Part One, VII: Enter Boris

Pictured left, Barry Jones (1893-1981), who played the elder Count Rostov in the 1956 movie.

By the way... I am not attempting to summarize the book as I go-- you can find a handy summary in a number of places, including at the back of the novel itself; here, I am simply offering my reactions as a reader and writer. In other words, I am not, as one blogger suggested (but it did make me laugh), "reading War & Peace so you don't have to."

So, I'm on page 35 and by this point I've made a larger investment than I would for most books-- having to keep track of a constant stream of new characters and their mult-layered and interwoven relationships doesn't make this novel a candidate for easy "beach reading." But I'm in. It feels like a whole world has opened... I even feel the bud of an ambition to start learning Russian.

The portrait Tolstoy offers of the happy go-lucky Count Rostov is a delight:

"Having seen off a guest, the count would return to the gentleman or lady who was still in the drawing room; moving up an armchair, and with the look of a man who loves life and knows how to live it, spreading his legs dashingly and putting his hands on his knees, he would sway significantly, offer his surmises about the weather, discuss health, sometimes in Russian, sometimes in very poor but self-confident French, and again, with the look of a man weary but firm in the fulfillment of his duty, would go see people off, smoothing the thin gray hair over his bald spot, and again invite them to dinner."

That use of body language is marvelous. In my writing workshops I am forever pointing out that people do more than nod, smile, and shrug.

I gather young Boris, whose mother is looking out for him, will become an important character. The burning question, meanwhile: who will inherit Bezukhov's fortune, Pierre or Prince Vassily?

I am eagerly reading...

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