Thursday, March 17th, 2011
My summary of War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy continues…
If Tolstoy had ever written a brochure for the Russian tourist board, book seven would surely be it. Called home to help sort out his family’s dire financial problems (don’t be deceived by their owning several houses, thousands of serfs and, thanks to Nicky’s insatiability, every horse in Russia – the Rostovs are pitiably poor), Nick Rostov, with siblings Natasha and Petya, embarks on the ultimate rural Russia experience. First there’s the delightful little wolf hunt (just the three of them, Daddy Rostov, a few servants, a scattering of neighbours, the family buffoon, a creepy ‘uncle’, twenty huntsmen and 130 dogs), then a cosy evening at ‘uncle’s’ lodge, where under the spell of the balalaika Natasha bursts into a spontaneous peasants’ dance, the steps to which she knows instinctively, because she is Russian. (This is of course a common phenomenon. I myself need only hear the jingling of a bell to be stirred to clap, and turn, and knock sticks and grunt, all without having had any tuition in the Morris dance.)
As fun as such days are though, young Nat and Nick are growing up, and must wend their thoughts to more serious matters: marriage. For Nicky, this is a happy consideration. While Mummy Rostov favours ugly heiress Julia, Nicholas has plumped for someone pretty and penniless: weepy Sonya. Yes, following a moment of wondrous revelation – seeing Sonya dressed as a man with a thick black moustache caked across her face – Nicky has finally decided that she is the girl for him. If only silly Sonya had taken to cross-dressing five years earlier, she could have saved herself a great many tears.
But now it is Natasha reaching for the tissues, and with good reason. Her fiancé Prince Andrei, having welcomed his father’s insistence on a twelve-month engagement period as an excellent excuse for a holiday, has abandoned her for the winter. Quite why Andrei decides that the best thing to do after getting engaged to a girl half his age and boasting two previous proposals is to disappear off to Switzerland on a gap year is never satisfactorily explained, so it comes as no surprise that the doting girl he left behind is not quite so smitten with him by the time he eventually finds his way home again…
Georgina Phipps, Editorial Administrator
Read the next installment: Book Eight