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War and Peace: A Summary (Books Eleven & Twelve, Part II)

Thursday, April 28th, 2011

My summary of War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy continues…

Books Eleven & Twelve, Part II

Last week, as you may recall, another one of our gallant heroes snuffed it. The ranks of our epic are thinning, and the survivors are bunching together for protection. Before Prince Andrei had the decency to succumb to his wounds, the Rostov family, his impromptu carers, were been joined by Andrei’s drab sister Mary, who had, since her rescue by Nicky Rostov from the pitch-forks of malevolent peasants, been safely tucked away in peaceful Voronezh. While there, Mary and Nicky (coincidentally in the area to procure horses) had grown so close that the young lad soon finds it impossible to deny his feelings for her – but, oh dratted honour – he is already promised to Sonya. And to change his mind about that again would make him look awfully silly.

Also in a love-triangle pickle is Pierre’s naughty wife Helene. Having picked up a grandee in St Petersburg and a prince in Vilna, she is now rather horrified to find them both in Petersburg at the same time. How to preserve the favour of both and the respect of her adoring public is a problem that would leave a lesser woman palpitating with anxiety, but not our Helene. She neatly turns the situation around by shaming both men into proposing to her. Rather than being outcast for such brazenness, this bizarre handling of the situation actually garners her sympathy in society. The question on everyone’s lips is not, how can she marry when she is already married, but how can she possibly choose between two such eligible suitors? And, how to rid herself of that beast Pierre, who is so selfishly married to her just when such a good opportunity for marriage presents itself? What Helene’s answers to these questions would have been must remain forever a secret for, like her brother Anatole, Helene suddenly dies in the course of an operation: in her case to rid herself of an unwanted child.

Meanwhile, completely oblivious to his wife’s extra-marital machinations, that beast Pierre is contemplating the death of another person entirely: Napoleon. Still convinced that it is his unlikely destiny to save Europe, Pierre chooses to stay in Moscow as most of his chums leave, adopts peasant dress, buys a pistol, and steals into the city centre disguised as a (fat) inconspicuous rogue with the intention of taking a shot at the emperor-invader as he enters the city. But alas! Pierre’s mission is in vain – not only does our unpunctual hero only come a-hunting after his target is safely ensconced in the Kremlin, he then allows himself to be distracted from his mission by saving a damsel in distress from the attentions of a French soldier. Which piece of gallantry promptly gets Pierre arrested and incarcerated in a dirty hut with common soldier-folk.

And so at the end of Book Twelve, it is fair to say things do not look promising…

Georgina Phipps, Editorial Administrator

Read the next installment: Books Thirteen to Fifteen

(Missed the previous summaries? Read them here: Book One , Book Two , Book Three , Book Four, Book Five, Book Six, Book Seven, Book Eight, Book Nine, Book Ten and Books Eleven & Twelve Part I)


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