As you might remember, I’ve been on a bit of a Russian lit kick for the past couple of years. What’s funny to me is that this “Russian lit kick” is only made up of four books, but they’re so long that I’m still on the same reading trend after two years. I’m starting to wonder if I’ll ever finish this fourth book, but I’m slowly making headway.
I was inspired to read War and Peace after seeing the musical Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812. The musical dramatizes part of Volume 2, Part 5, when several of the characters all meet in Moscow in the middle of Bonaparte’s invasion into Russia. Many men are off at war, Natasha’s being a classic teenage girl with a crush, and Pierre is depressed. The Broadway musical was my most magical experience at a theatre, but this post isn’t about the musical.
Epic novels like War and Peace, Anna Karenina, and Les Misérables are all fascinating because their characters are so intertwined. You might need Wikipedia to figure out exactly who everyone is and what their family tree looks like, but they’re like teens at a small private school. Everyone knows everyone, and everyone’s related to everyone.
Basically, everyone in this book makes terrible decisions and really needs to date outside their circle.
Natasha/Natalya/Natalie is a beautiful and flirtatious girl who is quick to fall in love. She’s the girl with the bright smile that all the boys were enthralled with in middle school. Yes, she’s 13 when she’s introduced in the book, and she has a childish crush. She has several other suitors as she gets older.
Sonya is Natasha’s cousin, you know, the poor relation that 19th century families always take in. Her childhood sweetheart is Natasha’s Brother, which explains why she doesn’t flirt with anyone in the musical. At some point, she rejects a guy who gets super pissed at her, goes off into a dangerous part of the war, and then comes back a war hero. But who cares that she rejected a guy who’s now The Bachelor War Hero With The Rose, because she’s still in love with Natasha’s Brother.
Oh, and after Sonya rejects Bachelor With The Rose, he gambles with Natasha’s Brother and thus steals away all the family’s money. I haven’t actually watched The Bachelor, but this Bachelor War Hero is a pretty terrible person.
Natasha gets engaged to a Rich Widower Prince who’s crazy about her because she’s so bright and full of life, but then his dad won’t let him commit, and he leaves. While she’s lonely, a Hot Guy comes in and convinces her that this is what love is like. Oh, and Hot Guy is best friends with The Bachelor With The Rose.
By the way, Hot Guy is a total meathead, and he’s already married. He’s really into having affairs with married women, and his family runs in some of the same circles that Natasha’s does.
Prince Rich Widower Fiancé refuses to take Natasha back because she cheated (fair) and broke up with him (fair), so he goes off to war. I think he also meets Natasha’s Brother at some point? Honestly, it’s like there are only four officers in the entire Russian army, and they all know Natasha.
I’m just past the point in the book when the Russian army thinks that all might be lost, and Bonaparte might win. Rich Widower Ex-Fiancé’s family tries to flee their estate, but the serfs refuse to let them leave until Natasha’s Brother literally rides in on horseback and rescues the Princess in Distress. So of course she decides she’s in love with him.
I think the lesson of this novel might be ask everyone you gamble with if they once proposed marriage to your sibling. If they say yes, they’re probably going to rob you of your fortune.
Or it’s to find better love interests, because these people don’t make good decisions. At this point in the book, I’d say that they’re all around 20-40, so they don’t all have the excuse of youth.
I’m sure there are plenty more poor decisions left in this novel. Like any good soap opera, I can’t wait to see who actually ends up married to whom.