Throughout 2013 I am taking part in a readalong of Tolstoy’s War and Peace hosted by Amy of My Friend Amy and Iris of Iris on Books. Amy has posted some questions to help us discuss January’s reading.
Why are you reading War & Peace?
I read Anna Karenina years ago and enjoyed it so I’ve been meaning to read War and Peace for a long time but haven’t been able to find the motivation to actually get round to doing it. After taking part in a year-long group read of Clarissa by Samuel Richardson last year, when I saw that Amy and Iris were planning a readalong of War and Peace for 2013, I decided to join in with this one too. It seemed like a good opportunity to read another long novel and the reading schedule looked very manageable – this month we had to read Volume 1 Part 1 and I had no difficulty finishing it in time. In fact, I didn’t want to stop at the end of Part 1 and I admit to starting Part 2 before the end of January!
I’m reading the Kindle version of the Vintage Classics edition. Opinions seem to be very divided on all of the available War and Peace translations so I wasn’t sure which one to choose. I read the Pevear and Volokhonsky translation of Mikhail Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita a couple of years ago and was quite happy with it and as I remember disliking the Maude translation of Anna Karenina (though it didn’t affect my enjoyment of the story too much) I decided it might be best to go with P&V again.
So far, is it different than you expected or the same?
I had high hopes for this book and I’m pleased to be able to say that I’ve loved what I’ve read so far, though it does have quite a different feel to Anna Karenina. I’ve found it surprisingly easy to read, though this first section has been mainly concerned with introducing us to the characters – I suspect I might be going to struggle with the military scenes as I don’t have much knowledge of the Napoleonic Wars or the French invasion of Russia.
The only problem I’ve had is that so much of the dialogue is in French and in this edition and format the English translations are in the notes at the end of each chapter – not very convenient with the Kindle (one of the negative things I’ve found with ebooks in general is that it’s not as easy to move backwards and forwards through the text as it is with a physical book).
Do you have a favorite character?
Not yet – I don’t feel I know any of them well enough to have favourites. And there are so many of them too! I’m still having trouble keeping them all straight (and especially remembering how each of them is related to the others) but I’m sure that will become easier as I progress through the book. The characters I’ve found most memorable so far are Pierre, Count Bezukhov’s illegitimate son, and Natasha, the thirteen-year-old daughter of the Rostovs. We haven’t seen much of Natasha yet but she seems a strong, lively character and I’m looking forward to getting to know her better.
What do you see as the biggest obstacle to finishing?
The mistake I made with Clarissa last year was that I kept abandoning the book without picking it up for long periods of time which made it difficult to start reading again. I loved Clarissa while I was actually reading it, but as soon as I stopped and allowed a few weeks to pass, I lost all my enthusiasm for it. I don’t want that to happen with War and Peace so this time I really need to find a reading pace that I’m happy with. I’ll try to stick to the readalong schedule at first as it’s more fun to be reading and posting at the same time as other participants, but it could be that a different pace would suit me better. The important thing is that I continue to enjoy reading this book and don’t start to feel that it’s a chore, which is what happened with Clarissa.
I don’t really have much more to say about the book at this early stage but I’ll post another update at the end of February.