War and Peace: A Summary (Book One)

Following my public declaration that I would read the epic tome War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy and summarise it for others in our blog, here is proof that I have not given up on my 2011 resolution (yet) and proudly present you with the first installment:


It is 1805, and to the west the drums of war are hammering, while in the east, in the salons of St Petersburg and the parties of Moscow, blood is hammering in the ears of bored and angry men, young and old, who sigh by turns at their love for the women they wish to marry, their lack of love for the women they have married, the inconsequential nature of the conversation of both sorts of women, and their great desire to run away from the tedium of society and valiantly be slaughtered as quickly as possible.

In Book One of War and Peace, the pursuits are decidedly more peaceful than war-ful. There are society gatherings and name-day parties, matchmaking, and inheritance squabbles, and a young girl Sonya flinging herself upon the furniture in floods of tears at the merest glance her teenage ‘betrothed’ Nicholas Rostov flicks towards another girl.

The adults have more important things than rash young ‘love’ on their minds, most particularly the deplorable, highly amusing pranks of Anatole, the wastrel son of Prince Vasili, and his comrade in scrapes, the fat, amiable Pierre. The latter was already a bit of a nuisance, firstly for having the cheek to be born of unmarried parents, and secondly for returning from ‘abroad’ with the apparent conviction that Bonaparte is not all that bad. These two unpalatables were at first politely swallowed, but society can only tolerate so much – when Pierre and Anatole one night tie a policeman to a bear and throw both into a river, the hammer falls on Anatole’s rowdy crowd, and Pierre must leave St Pete’s for Moscow. He does not remain out in the cold for long though, because – oh blessed good fortune! – his daddy dies and legitimises him in his will, thereby conveniently leaving him his huge stacks of cash. Aside from seriously peeving off the extended family, this kindness transforms Bear Pierre overnight into something of a hot catch.

Another society hottie is the young princess Lise, considered beautiful and charming by all who know her, except, predictably, her husband Prince Andrei Bolkonski. I am inclined to go with Andrei on this one – Lise has a downy lip and protruding teeth, and whatever fetishes Tolstoy may have engaged in, I for one do not find moustachioed rabbits attractive. Andrei, however, soon conspires to be rid of boring rabbit-face by running off to the war in Austria, leaving pregnant Lise in the countryside with his aggressively grumpy father and ugly, mathematically-challenged sister.

Georgina Phipps, Editorial Administrator

Read the next installment: Book Two

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