War and Peace Read-Along: Week One, Book One

I recently heard about a War and Peace read-along hosted by Hanna at Booking In Heels and since I know this novel will be much easier to read with a group of other bloggers than it would be to read it on my own, I have decided to participate!

As you can see, it is a two-and-a-half month-long event, so we only have to read 1-2 books a week (there are 15 plus 2 epilogues), which is doable.

This week we read Book 1, and since I have never read anything by Tolstoy or any other Russian novelist, it took a lot of effort to keep track of all of the characters (there are plenty), as well as figure out how to even pronounce their names.

[spoilers below for Book 1 of War and Peace]

The main plot points that take place during Book 1 are the death of Count Bezukhov, the legitimacy of his son Pierre (who is then able to receive the Count’s inheritance, much to the shock of the rest of the family), and the deployment of Prince Andrew.

  1. What pre-existing ideas did you have about War and Peace?
    I expected it to be long and boring.
  2. On that note, is it as bad as you’d expected?
    While it is long (1,000+ pages), it isn’t boring. At the same time, not much has happened either. So it’s interesting that it’s able to keep my attention.
  3. What strategies are you employing? (e.g. reading in short bursts, using your Kindle on your commute, taking notes about the characters…)
    I printed out a list of characters (8 pages long!) because there are so many and it’s hard to keep track of who is who. At this point, only a handful of the characters are familiar to me–when I see Princess Anna Mikhaylovna Drubetskaya (isn’t that a mouthful?) or Pierre or Prince Vicili, I know who they are. But most of the characters are completely unknown to me.
    I’m also reading a specific number of chapters per night (~4) so that helps keep me on track and the chapters are fairly short so I can take breaks.

    War and Peace

    Keeping my 8-page list of War and Peace characters handy!

  4. How are you getting along with your translation?
    The Kindle version I’m using is great. Much better than lugging around a printed book. They’ve translated the French segments, but since I speak French that wouldn’t be a problem for me. (Side note: this also aided me while reading Jane Eyre. I think every reader should learn French; you never know when you’ll need to translate book dialogue!)
  5. Most and least favorite characters?
    Favorite character: So far I like Princess Mary (I think she also goes by Maria?). She seems sweet.
    Least favorite: By far, Princess Anna Mikhaylovna Drubetskaya is my least favorite. She reminds me of those women who just butt into everything that doesn’t concern them. I wonder if I’m the only one who feels this way?
  6. How do you feel about the way women are treated in the book?
    I feel that they are looked down upon; their opinions are condescended and they are often criticized by the male characters (and even other female characters).

“I am a woman, and you think we are all stupid;” – Princess Katishe

If you’re interested in reading along with us, it’s not too late to join! Click here for the schedule.

13 thoughts on “War and Peace Read-Along: Week One, Book One

  1. Oh, you’re the first to get your post up! :) I’m so excited to see how everybody found Book One :)

    You know I hadn’t even realised that nothing has actually happened until you pointed it out, which I suppose is a sign that it somehow manages to be interesting anyway.

    Your idea of printing out a character list is a good one, and I also like the idea of reading four chapters a night. I’ve kind of gone the opposite way as I’m aiming to get the allocated reading done at the start of the week and using the rest of the time to read something lighter.

    I quite like Princess Anna though. I agree that she butts into everything, but Pierre seemed grateful for her help at least? :)

    Thanks for joining in with the read-a-long!

    • I’m trying to keep little “deadlines” like reading 4 chapters a night so I don’t fall behind. But since 4 chapters doesn’t take too long, I can read something lighter afterwards :)

      I feel like I SHOULD like Princess Anna and that’s why I’m confused as to why I don’t. Maybe I just wasn’t in the mood for her overbearing character this past week. Hopefully my impression of her will change this week!

      Thank you for hosting this read-along! I think the only way I’d be able to tackle this book is with fellow readers :)

      • You’re far from the only one who doesn’t like Anna – I seem to be in the minority for NOT hating her! I mean, Pierre seems to have benefited from her, after all?

        Don’t worry, I feel the same way – it’s why I set it up in the first place :)

  2. I’m glad you are enjoying W&P! I read it a few years ago and should probably re-read it because I’m sure I missed a lot the first time through. I loooooove Prince Andrei – he’s one of my favorite literary characters!

  3. Ha ha, what a great idea printing out that list. I could never keep all those Russian names straight in my head and just gave up. My overall favourite character was Prince Andrew even though he’s always so serious.

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  6. Haha, I like how upfront you are about your previous expectations. Despite enjoying Anna Karenina, I also expected this to be a boring read! But I’m also enjoying it even though the pacing is a bit slow (I blame who ever decided paying by the line for a story was a good idea!). I actually love Princess Anna Mikhaylovna Drubetskaya because someone needs to ignore the ridiculous social conventions and just speak their mind! So far Prince Vasili is my least favorite because he’s the one I’ve noticed being the most condescending to women, not to mention how terribly he treats his wife.

    • Prince Vasili was definitely my least favorite character from Books 2 and 3. I actually liked Anna better in those books as well.

      Overall, the pacing is pretty slow, but sometimes I also realize that months and months have gone by and very little has happened. It’s a very interesting writing style, to say the least :)

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