War and Peace: A Summary (Book Eight)

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

Book Eight

We finished Book Seven with Sonya blissfully enraptured with a fiancé by her side, and Natasha desperately pining for a fiancé many miles away, having a whale of a time in the Swiss Alps. But in Book Eight it soon transpires that Natasha, despite all her tiresome wailing and whining for the one man in the world she could ever truly love, does not, in the end, require a great deal of persuasion to convince herself that she is in fact in love with someone else.

It all began, as so many literary seductions do, at the opera, where Natasha becomes acquainted with master-temptress Helene. An easy disregard for morality and an effortless ability to seduce are talents the Kuragin children are particularly proud of possessing, so much so that they encourage their practice in each other. So when Helene realises her brother Anatole is drooling over her young friend, she exploits her position as Natasha’s new idol (Tash really needs to re-evaluate her role-model selection procedure), to continually bring the two together. It is only a few short steps from Anatole’s fixated leering, to Helene swearing to Anatole’s love, to Anatole grabbing a quick naughty kiss at a party, to him quickly forming a plan for an elopement, a plan involving his rowdy gang, a superfast sledge and a fake priest. Fool Andrei is dumped via a letter to his sister Mary (how sensitive) and the bride’s all packed and ready to fly when Sonya gets wise to the plan, alarms the household and barricades Natasha’s bedroom door.

Thwarted Natasha only calms down when Pierre arrives to tell her Anatole is actually already married to a woman in Poland. Upon hearing this Natasha, possibly out of shame, more likely because in one evening her total number of fiancés has dropped from two to zero, tries to poison herself. This leaves it to poor Pierre to tidy up the mess she has made, firstly by kicking brother-in-law Anatole out of Moscow, secondly by acting as a go-between for sick Natasha and suddenly-returned Andrei (he really does have knack for timing his arrivals – see Book Four). This is an awkward position for chubbykins Pierre, made all the worse by the fact that he himself is harbouring a secret crush on Natasha, a love that becomes a little less secret when he confesses his devotion to her in an attempt to cheer the miserable creature up. And considering what great awfulness is to befall so many as our tale now moves to the summer of 1812, she really doesn’t have a great deal to cry about.

Georgina Phipps, Editorial Administrator

Read the next installment: Book Nine

(Missed the previous summaries? Read them here: Book One , Book Two , Book Three , Book Four, Book Five, Book Six and Book Seven)

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