War & Peace - The wrap-up post

This is going up a bit late because... it is. Sorry!!

I am going to talk a bit about the epilogues at the end of the post in case anybody who hasn't read the book wants to read my overall thoughts.

But before I start answering the survey, I just want to say a huge thank you to Hanna for hosting the whole thing and providing excellent prompts, and to Charlotte for providing equally excellent prompts in the weeks that Hanna was unable to. And I think that all of us who participated deserve a pat on the back for making it to the end. YAY US!

And although this readalong was a bit painful at times (more on this below!), I am also so up for doing another one!! I just need a few months to enjoy reading at my own pace first, hehe.

1. Was War & Peace what you expected or did it surprise you?

I expected a really long book that had bits about war and bits about peace in it, so I guess it was! What I wasn't expecting though was how gossipy it would be, and I also wasn't expecting to kind of hate most of the characters, hehe.

2. What was your favourite part?

Oh, I don't know! I liked any of the parts that were sort of gossipy and full of scandal, they were definitely the most fun to read.

3. Least favourite part?

The epilogues. I didn't think it could get more boring than the hunting trip, but I was wrong!!

4. Have you learned anything from War & Peace? Either Russian history, or in a more abstract, how-to-read-big-books way?

I have learnt that the Russian aristocracy all spoke French most of the time. Also I feel like I have learnt a bit about how wars were fought at that time and about Russian history (the only bit of Russian history that I knew beforehand is all to do with the revolution and then the history up to now, so pretty much everything in the book was new to me!)

I learnt that reading big books is much more fun when you're doing it with a group of other people rather than going it alone! I really wish I had read infinite jest with a group now.

5. Be honest, how close did you come to giving up?

I think the closest I came was the week where I ended up really behind, but I was never THAT close. I idly toyed with the idea of giving up, but I think I would have been really annoyed at myself if I had. But if I had been reading it by myself, I think I probably would have given up the first time it went into a war section.

...Actually having written about the epilogues below, I have to say I came pretty close to giving up during the epilogues. But I would have kicked myself for that afterwards, so I'm glad I didn't. I do wish that I had gone with my other idea to just completely skim read most of it though, haha.

6. How did it feel when you FINALLY finished?

Like I had just wasted too much time reading the epilogues. Urgh. But I was also very happy that I was able to read something else, and I am impressed that I actually finished it! I'm allowed to be impressed with myself, right??

7. What's the first book you're going to pick up without Tolstoy-induced guilt?

The first thing I read after finishing was Ms. Marvel volume 2 (it was excellent!), and I am currently reading Stardust by Neil Gaiman, which I should really have finished by now, but I am not getting much reading done at the moment. I am enjoying it though!

8. Would you recommend this book to a friend? Would you reread it? 

Ooh that's tricky. If I had a friend who was considering reading it, then I think I would point out that it was actually way easier to read than I thought it would be and much more fun in parts, but that there were whole sections when I was shouting SHUT UP ALREADY TOLSTOY! in my head... so I'm not sure that would really be a recommendation. I think if someone I knew was already interested in reading it, I wouldn't try to put them off, but I don't think that I would particularly encourage them. And no. I would not reread it. Unless I ended up with wayyyy too much free time on my hands and no money to buy new books (libraries are not so much of an option for me).

But having said that, I did enjoy it way more than I thought I would, and I am really glad that I've read it!

And now, epilogue based talk. There will be spoilers from this point on, beware spoilerphobes!

The epilogues.... did anybody enjoy them? I really wish that they hadn't existed, because although they wrapped up the question of what was going to happen to Marya and Nikolai, and Pierre and Natasha, they didn't really clear anything else up or have any other purpose. They made me dislike Nikolai EVEN MORE, and honestly after I found out that both couples ended up together, I didn't care about anything else. And then the second half where he was just going ON AND ON AND ON AND ON AND ON about how all historians are crap or... whatever it was he was talking about, I actually found myself going "OH MY GOD SHUT UP!!!" at the book a few times.

After having read the whole book, I have to say that I am very glad that people have sort of worked out what makes a story successful now, and that most modern authors know how to tell stories without including massive irrelevant bits in them. Let's face it, if this was a  manuscript that was submitted today, huge chunks would have been cut out of it, because there was so much stuff that just did not need to be there. Maybe people now do have shorter attention spans, but honestly I just found myself going "SERIOUSLY? You are still talking about this?!?!" quite a few times while reading.

So yes, in conclusion: Tolstoy needed an editor (or a better editor if he did actually have one!)


*Happy dance*


War and Peace - Week 11

Wow, we got to the end of the actual book!!! *Is ignoring the fact that there's still 100 pages of epilogues*

Seeing as it wasn't in the questions... The prediction I made about one of the Rostovs dying was right!!!! I WIN!!! (I rarely predict things accurately so I'm happy about it, even though I feel like I probably shouldn't be celebrating Petya's death. After all, he wasn't one of the characters that I particularly disliked, although I feel like his enthusiasm for war was probably not too advisable). I found it weird that there was no mention of him for ages and then he showed up and was the centre of the narrative for a few chapters and then just died. But, that seems to be how this book goes!

1) Do you think the book ended in a funny place or did it seem like a logical place for the story to end?

I think actually I would be okay with it ending without any epilogues or anything, because I think there was enough to go on to guess what would happen afterwards. In other ways though, the novel kind of jumps around in time a bit anyway and glosses over important things that happened, so I'm interested in seeing what makes the epilogues different from the main text. If anything.

2) How do you see the characters five years on from now? Will everybody get a happy ever after? 

I... am no good at doing 5 years in the future things, so I'm just going to skip to the next part of the question! Hmm, it seems that Natasha and Pierre will (if getting married is a happy ending - I'm not entirely sure that any marriage with Natasha in is going to end happily, but in the book the definition of a happy marriage seems to be being able to put up with each other and not being openly mean about or to the other person, so they might manage that?

I'm trying to think who else apart from Pierre I actually care about... It seems like Marya and elder Rostov boy will end up being married, which I think would be good and a happy ending for Marya if Rostov stops being an idiot and grows up!

I'm worried about Sonya, but maybe she'll meet someone else or you know.. do something fulfilling with her life! That would be good.

I don't care about anybody else. Hehe.

3) Do you think Tolstoy is a biased narrator? If so, in what way?

Yes. Although I think he is trying to be as fair as he can about the war stuff, he is still obviously supporting the Russian side. I think he does a fairly okay job with not making all Russians out to be heroes or particularly nice people though, all in all. It's the kind of bias that is understandable, and I do like that he does make an effort to see things from the other side some of the time.

4) Are you still enjoying this book or are you honestly just waiting for the damn thing to stop talking?

Hmm, this is sort of difficult to answer. I'm not enjoying it like I enjoy my favourite books, but reading it has been really interesting and I do want to know how everything turns out. I'm not sick of it yet, but I am looking forward to it being over! Hehe. I honestly am very glad that I decided to join in with the readalong, there have been several points along the way when I've considered quitting (including before I started, and any time there were lots of war based chapters) but I am really glad that I stuck with it!

I think it has actually taken me quite a while to get into the rhythm of the book, and I am now finding that the war bits don't bother me so much because I know what to expect.... I think I would actually enjoy the book much more if I re-read it, but the chances of that happening are very very low. If nothing else, now that this week's reading has pretty much confirmed that Tolstoy is a massive misogynist (I was giving him the benefit of the doubt before, but that whole bit about intelligent women made me angry), I think I would be much more annoyed by the sexism if I re-read it.

Only the epilogues to go now! Woohoo!!! I am really looking forward to reading other things. So much so that I'm going to try to get through the epilogues today, yayy!!


Tampa by Alissa Nutting

First a warning: I will be talking about the ending of this book in the review, but at the end behind a clear spoiler marking, so spoilers should be easy to avoid if you are spoilerphobic like I am. Also I realise that I am posting this stupidly late, but... yeah. I am not a good blogger!

Onto the book!

Celeste Price is an eighth-grade English teacher in suburban Tampa. She is attractive. She drives a red Corvette. Her husband, Ford, is rich, square-jawed and devoted to her. But Celeste has a secret. She has a singular sexual obsession - fourteen-year-old boys. It is a craving she pursues with sociopathic meticulousness and forethought.
Within weeks of her first term at a new school, Celeste has lured the charmingly modest Jack Patrick into her web - car rides after dark, rendezvous at Jack's house while his single father works the late shift, and body-slamming encounters in Celeste's empty classroom between periods. It is bliss.
Celeste must constantly confront the forces threatening their affair - the perpetual risk of exposure, Jack's father's own attraction to her, and the ticking clock as Jack leaves innocent boyhood behind. But the insatiable Celeste is remorseless. She deceives everyone, is close to no one and cares little for anything but her pleasure.

I am definitely drawn to books that are labelled as controversial, so I knew that I would read this at some point. I found it fairly repulsive, which, to be honest, was quite reassuring! I haven't read Lolita, or The End of Alice, or anything else which has a paedophile as the main character, and after this I'm not sure if I want to (although I have heard good things about both of those books so I might at some point, who can say?).

I think that the whole subject of female paedophiles is something that maybe isn't talked about very often. In pop culture, men are quite often portrayed as being slaves to their sex drives and unable to control themselves (which is obviously a load of rubbish and very problematic for everyone!) so it was fascinating seeing a woman who was characterized like this. Because Celeste, the main character, is under no illusions that she is in love with her victims, she just feels like she needs them and has a right to use them to fulfil her sexual desires. I felt no sympathy for her at all during the novel, and I think that this sort of lets the novel down a little bit. It would have been much more complex and interesting if she had been sympathetic in some way, if there was any attempt made to sort of humanize her, instead of portraying her as a psychopathic monster from the start.

I did enjoy it though, as far as you can enjoy a book like this. The plot moved pretty quickly, and there was a part of me that was waiting to see what insane thing she would do next. I think in the end the book went too far for me, and I would have preferred it to stay more... realistic? Is that the right word? But if the idea of reading about a paedophile doesn't make you run away screaming, and if you are not bothered by pretty explicit (although not erotic in any way, thank goodness) language and descriptions, then I think it might be worth reading.

Not an extraordinary book, but an interesting one.

And now, I want to talk about the end of the book so... spoilers ahead! Be warned!

So, I think that one of the things that is actually good about this novel is the way that it ends. Not actually in that I enjoyed the ending, because to be honest it is disturbing and not at all cathartic. I have read some things which said that this was stupid because she deserved to be locked up, which of course she did, but I think that this is a more realistic depiction of what could potentially happen in the real world. There's an idea that her victims were lucky because she's so attractive, and that being seduced by a hot teacher is a fantasy for a lot of teenage boys. She basically manages to worm her way out of going to prison by being too beautiful to go there (sorry, what?! Apparently this is actually a real defence that was used!) and then is free to carry on being super creepy.

Although I think that a better book could be written dealing with these issues, I do think that Tampa says a lot about how women are depicted and how men are depicted, and it made me think about how much society would benefit if men weren't supposed to be hyper-masculine and have an uncontrollable sex drive, and if women's attractiveness didn't alter how society treats them so much.


War and Peace - Week 10

Well.. this week's reading wasn't particularly exciting, was it?! I am hoping for better things next week. I actually finished it on Wednesday and Thursday, and can't REALLY remember much of what happened in it, so this bodes well for the blog post doesn't it! Hehe.

I actually cannot believe that we have been doing this for 10 weeks. I don't think I have ever been reading the same book for so long, I am itching to go and read something else (I didn't have enough time last week to fit something else in and finish it, and I have realised that I don't like having two novels on the go at once and am really not in a non-fiction/short story place right now, so for this week I have prepared a small stack of comics to read, yay! I do really want to read another novel though, hehe).

1)  The only bit of this week's war-themed escapades that I really took in was a small section where it got interesting and the Russians started getting ready to attack the French but then got confused because they couldn't find somebody or other so they did it the next day and botched it again because they went crazy and just started trying to beat on some French people.  Does anybody feel as though they're learning?

I feel like I am learning a bit about what happened, but I also feel like although Tolstoy seems to be doing a good job of being fair to both sides, I can't quite trust his version of events. I have definitely learnt way more about the war than I knew before (which was basically that the French weren't prepared for a Russian winter), but I had no idea that they had occupied Moscow! I do not know much history at all, hehe. I would like to know more about European history but first I feel like I should learn a bit about the history of Japan seeing as I live here and everything! All I know really is a little bit about the Meiji restoration and then what has happened since - anything before then I'm a bit clueless about.

2)  Clearly Tolstoy's not a Napoleon fan - as far as Tolstoy's concerned, he's lucky at best. Thoughts?

Hmm, I got the impression that he thought that Napoleon was capable (especially earlier in the book), but that he was human and had maybe overestimated his talents. From pop culture in general I always got the impression of Napoleon being a complete arse, but this book has actually made me wonder if that is the case, hehe. I should really go and read up about Napoleon in general, but I'll be honest and say that it is very unlikely that I will.

3)  According to Shmoop, Pierre's only been in prison for four weeks.  And in four weeks he's decided to completely re-write his personality while shedding some pounds.  I've been surprised by how well Tolstoy has portrayed the French's treatment of their prisoners.  Maybe he's not so biased after all? [I realise that's not technically a question but I'm late so we're going with it]

Aww, poor Pierre! As I said up there *points* I actually feel like Tolstoy is pretty fair to both sides - he doesn't really imply that the Russians are completely amazing, and he doesn't really portray the French as evil or anything. I think that he is probably treating both sides as fairly as he could given that he himself is Russian and therefore obviously a bit biased. It seems to me that this whole era is pretty interesting, as most of the aristocracy speak to each other in French, and France seems to have been held in quite high regard before the war, so it seems like everyone is kind of treating the other side as humans, rather than just seeing them as the enemy. Does that make sense?

4)  This might be a ridiculous question given that some of you may not be flying by the seat of your pants and only just staying caught up (like nobody around here, obviously) but is anybody else worried that the final two books are going to be all about Napoleon trudging back across Russia and that we're only going to get back to the characters we actually care about in retrospect when we hit the Epilogues?!

I wasn't worried before, but I am now!!! Thinking about it, it is completely possible. I guess that we will just have to wait and see what this week's reading brings. I have sort of learnt not to expect major events to be properly covered, as Tolstoy seems to gloss over lots of things that I would have expected a book of this length to take time over, and then concentrate intensely on things that aren't at all important (like that stupid hunting trip!). So I don't really have that high expectations for the end of the novel - not that I am not enjoying the book in general! I am really glad that I joined this readalong, because I don't think I would have got through this in a million years if it was just me!

I think actually that if the final two books are just about the war and then everything to do with the characters that I mostly dislike is in the epilogues, I will actually be able to get through the epilogues, whereas if everyone's story is wrapped up in the last two books and the epilogues are about the war, I might struggle a lot! We'll see, I guess.


War and Peace - Week 9


I accidentally fell behind with War and Peace BUT I managed to catch up and am only sort of late this week. Huzzah! I actually quite enjoyed reading a lot of it in one chunk as I did over the past week and a half, and although I am also looking forward to finishing it, I think I'll be a bit sad when it's over!

1)  With the multiple deaths, this week started to feel a little more like Tolstoy was starting to wrap up some of his characters' stories. How do you feel about the way Helene's death was dealt with compared to Andrew's?

Helene's death was so... glossed over. I feel like the only characters who actually get decent deaths in this book are men, which is annoying but oh well. It came out of nowhere for me, and I think she may have just died to make it easier for Pierre to go off and marry someone else.

2)  I certainly wouldn't go so far as to call myself a Pierre fan but his experiences as a prisoner were quite moving. How do you think Pierre is going to fare as we approach the end of the novel?

I actually think I like Pierre the most out of everyone in the novel. He does completely unnecessary things (like going off to war and just riding around seeing what was going on and getting in everyone's way... why?!), but in general I find his bumbling around quite endearing! I really hope he is heading towards a happy ending, even if that means marrying Natasha (which at this point is sort of inevitable, no? All the obstacles have disappeared!) who I am not a huge fan of, but if it makes Pierre happy I don't mind.

3)  Now the competition's opened back up, who are you backing for Nicholas Rostov's future wife, rich heiress Mary or devoted Sonya?

I dislike Rostov so don't think he really deserves either of them! However, it does seem like unless Sonya suddenly stumbles into a fortune he is going to end up with Marya, and that would make her happy it seems. I feel sorry for Sonya but at least she does have the Rostovs in general, whereas Marya has pretty much nobody at this point. Much as I dislike Nicholas I think he would actually treat Marya nicely, which is much better than if she had ended up with that annoying idiot (whose name I am blanking on, you know who I mean!!)

4)   The Rostovs have always been my favourite family in War and Peace and seeing them from Mary's perspective was a little bit sad.  How is everyone feeling about how things are going for them?

I feel bad for them. They do seem to always want to try and do the right thing and other people just take advantage of them. I feel like they might be happier in general to just give up a lot of their money and be a poor but happy family! I think that it will work out for them in the end though, hopefully! Although I still think that one of the Rostov boys might die. Have we actually heard anything about Petyr (is that his name??? Argh! I am not doing well today) since he joined the army?

Not much longer to go now!!! I am going to do my best to not fall behind again.