War and Peace: A Summary (Book Two)

And so we continue now with my précis of War and Peace, by Leo Tolstoy.


Peace shifts to War in Book Two, and so there is much parading of troops and inspections by generals, and many assurances that the Russian troops are not only confident in their ability to defeat the enemy, but have good reason to be so. ‘Our’ troops are so wonderfully enthusiastic, loyal and brave, and smile and laugh unconcerned even when in the front line of fire – this is the general gist of these eighty or so pages.

As to detail, Andrei has nabbed himself a rather cushy post on the staff of General Kutuzov, and when not being decorated for delivering messages to emperors or scorning foolish fellow officers, he is running around battlefields, vainly awaiting his ‘Toulon’ moment that will, like Bonaparte, raise his fate above that of the common man. Also in the campaign are Boris, whose determined mother chased Prince Vasili down a corridor so as to secure him a position; Berg, the dull lover of nasty Vera Rostov; and young Nick Rostov, who seems to spend an inordinate amount of time buying horses and cannot conceive of anyone wanting to kill him as his mummy loves him so.

And so, with enough words to fill a whole novel and enough action to suffice a prologue, our varied mob of soldiers are swept toward the climax of Book Two: the (historically minor) Battle of Schön Grabern. Here Andrei, despite his unnecessary malingering at the front line, fails to prove himself the most magnificent man of his age, and silly Nick, in his first cavalry charge, falls off his horse, hurts his arm, runs away from a Frenchman and moans a lot. The book ends with our young Nick sitting by a fire, reflecting on a lovely fluffy snowy Russian winter, and wondering what on earth he is doing in this miserable ‘abroad’ place. Of weeping Sonya he thinks not a moment – though thankfully for the patience of the reader, she is blissfully unaware of this.

Georgina Phipps, Editorial Administrator

Read the next installment: Book Three

Missed the last summary? Click here: Book One

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