An short update on the #WarAndPeace2022 Readalong. Sending love and hope to the people of Ukraine 🇺🇦

When Becky, Elisabeth and I launched our #WarAndPeace2022 Readalong on 5 January we were full of excitement about taking on a wonderful project: reading Tolstoy’s War and Peace a chapter a day through the year. It would be a community read which allowed us to tackle a hitherto daunting book while sharing quotes and comments along the way.

Of course we had no idea that Russia would escalate matters so dramatically and tragically in Ukraine.

The devastating and heatbreaking attack by Russia on Ukraine has thrown a chilling new perspective on Tolstoy’s story of war across mid-Eurasia. In the light of these developments, I cannot bring myself to share jolly tweets and blog posts about War and Peace of all books.

There is little I feel I can actually do to help in this situation. But there is something I can avoid doing, and that is to carry on as originally planned with my Readalong posts as if nothing is happening. Becky and Elisabeth are in agreement that to do so would be insensitive, unfeeling and uncaring.

We will keep the Readalong under review for now. Our hope is, of course, that matters between Russia and Ukraine can be resolved quickly, in which case we may be able to return to our plans. In the meantime, I am diverting my W&P reading time to some of the fiction and non-fiction books on the excellent lists below.

We send our love and hopes for peace to the people of Ukraine. 💙💛🇺🇦💛💙

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#WarAndPeace2022 Readalong: reflections on Vol 1, Part 1

Our #WarAndPeace2022 Readalong started on 5 January and here we are already at the end of Vol 1, Part 1.

It’s been a flurry of initial excitement as we start to meet some of the main characters and their families. Tolstoy cleverly positions the early scenes in large gatherings so that we can eavesdrop on conversations about the concerns of the day. The key matter on everyone’s mind is the advance of Napoleon and the challenges of preparing for war, not least the impending departure of their sons to the front.

But life back home also carries on apace and we learn about the ongoing priorities of those in high places: how to marry well; how to gain influence over decision makers; and how to position oneself in the matter of inheritance.

Even in these opening pages, we can quickly see examples of Tolstoy’s close observance of human nature. As Rosamund Bartlett notes in the introduction to her biography Tolstoy: A Russian Life, “The consciousness of his characters is at once particular and universal.” I can’t help smiling in recognition of these truths which underline how little we humans have changed in 200 years or so.

“‘You’re quite right,’ the countess went on. ‘Up to now, thank God, I’ve been a good friend to my children and they trust me completely.’ The countess was repeating the delusion of so many parents, who imagine their children have no secrets from them.”

Vol 1, Ch 9 (tr Briggs)

I have found these first chapters to be an absolute pleasure to read. Not at all difficult or stuffy, as I thought might be the case. Keeping track of who’s who has also been relatively straightforward, although I was once or twice very glad of Elisabeth’s excellent crib post on the main characters. The sweep of characters, the family relationships, and the descriptions of fine clothes and expected societal norms all present a dazzling picture, with several story lines already seeming to take shape. I can’t wait to read on and find out more.

If you are joining me, Becky and Elisabeth on our Readalong, how are you finding the book so far? And if you have read it previously, what are your memories of getting to grips with the start? We’d love to hear what you think. And don’t forget to let us know about any questions and topics you would like to explore in the series of podcasts we are planning to accompany the Readalong through the year.

Meanwhile, on we go to Vol 1, Part 2 as we progress through the months of 1805. If you would like to join in, it’s not too late and everyone is welcome. You can browse my W&P pages for more information about the schedule, translations and other resources. And if you post any comments, please remember to use #WarAndPeace2022 so that we can find them and you. 🙂

Featured Image: Noble assembly of Russian high society by V Chambers via wikipedia

A Journey of 361 Chapters Starts With A Single Page. #WarAndPeace2022 Begins Today!

Today sees the start of a magnificent year-long reading journey: the #WarAndPeace2022 Readalong.

His feelings were those of a man who has found the beginnings of a long-sought happiness.

Leo Tolstoy, War and Peace, Vol 1, Part 2, Ch 9, Trans A Briggs

I have long wished to read this epic masterwork but it had always seemed too daunting. Having discovered in 2021 the delightful concept of reading great classics of literature a chapter a day, I know that this is the year when I will finally achieve my goal of reading what some describe as not only Tolstoy’s finest work, but one of the finest in the whole of global literature.

Continue reading “A Journey of 361 Chapters Starts With A Single Page. #WarAndPeace2022 Begins Today!”