A Year-Long War and Peace Readalong

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Staring a 1455 page book straight in the eye, so to speak, is incredibly daunting. I wonder if it is realistic that I will stick with it? Like many classics, War and Peace is a book I have always felt I needed to read at some point in my life. And while I greatly enjoyed Anna Karenina last year, this book beats that one by many, many hundreds of pages.

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At only 4 very short chapters in, though, I know what will sustain me throughout this year-long readalong and it is what I remember from Anna Karenina: the way Tolstoy describes his characters intentions, their inner thoughts as well as their outward appearance. I am a visual person. It’s how I learn things. I need to see and do a thing to make it stick, to make me understand it. Tolstoy’s descriptions of the myriad characters that populate his books allow me to see them visually creating a life for them in my head, which is how I have experienced reading since childhood; descriptions of time, place and intimate surroundings rounding off the pictures I need in my head.

Because there are 361 chapters in this book the readalong host Nick Senger has created a ‘chapter-a-day’ reading schedule and my expectations are high that I will finish. The character list for War and Peace is a page and a half, but I know I will ‘see’ them all. It is early yet, but the characters have drawn me in with their appearance, their humor and their thoughts.

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Some characters we are introduced to so far:

Prince Vasily always spoke listlessly, like an actor repeating a part in an old play…like a wound-up clock, saying by force of habit things he did not even expect to be believed.

Anna Pavlovna was brimming with zest and animation, despite her forty years. To be an enthusiast had become a social attitude with her, and sometimes, even when she did not feel like it, she became enthusiastic in order not to disappoint the expectations of those who knew her.

[Prince Andrei Bolkonsky]…it was obvious that he not only knew everyone in the drawing room but was so thoroughly bored with them that he found it tedious either to look at them or listen to them. And among all those faces he found so tiresome, none seemed to bore him so much as that of his pretty little wife.

Princess Ellen smiled; she rose with that same unchanging smile, the smile of a perfectly beautiful woman, with which she entered the drawing room….Ellen was so lovely that not only did she show no trace of coquetry, but on the contrary, appeared to be almost embarrassed by her undeniable, irresistible, and enthralling beauty….[She] leaned her plump bare arm on a little table….The whole time the story was being told, she sat erect, gazing now and then at her beautiful round arm resting lightly on the table, or at her even more beautiful bosom, on which she readjusted the folds of her gown…

Ippolit struck one not so much by his remarkable resemblance to his beautiful sister, as by the fact that despite this resemblance he was surprisingly ugly. His features were the same as hers, but while his sister’s face was lit up by a perpetually beaming, complacent, youthful smile, and her body was of a singularly classic beauty, his face was overcast by an idiotic and invariably peevish, conceited expression, and his body was thin and weak. His eyes, nose, and mouth all seemed to be puckered into a vacant, bored grimace, and his arms and legs always fell into unnatural positions.

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It’s rather unwieldy to read this in mass market form!

Have you read War and Peace? What did you think?

We are using this hashtag on Twitter for daily quotes from the book if you want to see what we’re up to! #warandpeacereadalong.

Wales Readathon – #Dewithon19

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What do daffodils, Saint David’s Day and March 2019 have in common? And what the heck is a ‘dewithon’?*

They mean the Welsh Readathon is here!

During the month of March readers and bookbloggers all over the world are invited to read and share about the literature, culture and people of Wales. Through fiction, nonfiction, articles, tweets and book reviews we have the opportunity to dig a little deeper, if you’re like me, into a country I know little about.

The mastermind behind this celebration of all things Welsh is Paula Bardell-Hedley of BookJotter.com. The hub for the month where links to posts are located is here. Unfamiliar with the literature of Wales and need some guidance? Paula has posted links to writers and books in all genres here. On Twitter you can find people sharing their links and thoughts with these hashtags: #dewithon19 and walesreadathon19

But wait…there’s more! Paula has included a readalong and who doesn’t love a good community-wide readalong?! Published in 1908, The Autobiography of a Super-tramp, by W.H. Davies is about his adventures through the UK, Canada and the US. It is always illuminating to read descriptions of your own country from people traveling through and that this one is from the early 19th century is a bonus for me. (If this is not available in your area, Amazon has a Kindle copy). For more about Davies and the schedule for the readalong, go here.

My reading contribution at this point is Susan Cooper’s, The Grey King, which is part of her Dark is Rising Sequence. I would also like to read something from the Welsh diaspora, which I haven’t chosen yet, and I hope to be inspired by some surprises!

ETA: I think I’ll amend this list as books come up, as I just added Under Milk Wood, by Dylan Thomas to my short but growing pile.

Happy reading…or as they say in Wales, Mwynhewch ddarllen! (Enjoy reading!)

 

*Saint David is the patron saint of Wales and March 1st is his death anniversary
The daffodil is the national flower of Wales
Dewi is the diminutive form of Dafydd (David)

Of Gone with the Wind and War of the Worlds

Well, the Classics Club has spoken, er chosen, the magic Spin number of 19 and I will not be reading Gone with the Wind this time around…or will I? More on that below 🙂

No, 19 corresponds to a book in my ‘dreading to read/feel obligated to read section, which means I will be reading The War of the Worlds by the prolific H.G. Wells. I think my hesitation to read this classic has been because I felt I knew it already having heard many renderings of it on the radio, mimicking the original that scared the bejesus out of so many who heard it the first time.

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At any rate, I am kind of relieved, because it is a short novel AND, if the number had been just one less, I would be reading Moby Dick, and *ack* on that. I know, I know…it is not nice to bash a classic, and I am sure for many this is a great book. But until it should come to pass that *I* have to read it, it shall remain on my ‘dreading to read’ list.

Which brings me to Gone with the Wind. I am so happy to share my good fortune! Jillian of a room of one’s own is going to do a readalong of it in just a few weeks. This is her favorite book; she knows it well; and I have signed up! And yes, it is in the midst of the Christmas crazies, but how can you not take advantage knowing your reading will be enhanced by someone so familiar with it???

Besides, reading is a good way to take a break during this time. It rests your fighting-the-crowds body and calms your stressed I-can’t-find-Uncle-John’s-gift mind, right? So join me if you will and sign in here to let Jillian know you are in.
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On a more personal note: not only am I excited to finally read *this* classic, but I will be reading from my grandmother’s (z”l) copy. How special is that?!