Are You Still There?

Because I wouldn’t blame you if you’d left. Nothing like a snow day (or two) to wear out my excuses for not posting. So here I am!

Since finishing Watership Down (which ended happily ever after; what a twist!), I’ve moved on to War and Peace. So, essentially I went from an adorable, if dull, children’s novel about rabbits to a hilarious, if long, Russian novel about…well…war and peace.

But first – let’s do a post-mortem on WD, shall we?

Side bar: Some people don’t like the term “post-mortem” because it’s too dark. I kind of like it. Alternatively, I could start calling these autopsies. I think that would work, too; systematically (perhaps even clinically) reviewing a book to determine what happened/present a conclusion about its end. Seems about right to me. Except…maybe my post-mortem/autopsies are not so much systematic and/or clinical as they are stream of consciousness…so maybe not. Where were we?

watership down

“Slugs are lucky not to have legs. I think I’ll be a slug.” – Bluebell, Watership Down

I had built WD in my mind to be this insurmountably boring novel. I tried once, couldn’t get past all the droning on about crossing a river, and have since lived in dread of having to revisit it. But, you know what? It really wasn’t that bad. A bit of a blunt instrument in terms of its use of allegory and symbolism, but who among us haven’t fallen into that trap once or twice in our lives? Plus, it’s a Netflix series now, which is kind of neat.

*SPOILERS BELOW*

Moving on to W&P –

warandpeace

Before I even begin, I have to tell you that the best thing about reading War and Peace is that I have someone joining me this time. They’re calling it the Cat Book Club and it’s like my life’s aspiration to inspire a book club is now complete. I have arrived. But also it’s just great to have someone slogging through this with me – and better than me, might I add! They are tearing through W&P while I am making slow progress. It’s good though, keeps me motivated and stops me from straying from this book to other, easier, tempting young adult books on my bookshelf. Also Jurassic Park. And Jaws. And the Hannibal series.

I have to tell you, W&P may be long-winded, but it is hilarious. Ol’ Tolstoy really knows how to find the humour in social and military politics. And, true to form, it is near impossible to keep track of who everyone is, especially when you factor in all.of.the.military.personel. WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE? It wouldn’t be so bad if they were introduced with context, but many aren’t – new names are often thrown in off-hand and never returned to again. Or, their relevance/relation to the plot/other characters is never addressed. They’re just kind of…there…

Pro tip for reading Tolstoy: Just because he calls them prince/princess does not mean that person is royalty. Everybody up in here is a prince or a princess. And everyone has 5 versions of their name. And there are at least 3 people being referred to as “the little princess” in any given scene at any given time.

So far, the war is progressing (I would love to give you more information but I am just so confused. The Russians/Prussians/Austrians lost a bridge to the French, then they won another battle, then Rostov got injured and Boris has done nothing but go to military balls and march in parades, someone’s brother had diner with Napoleon and now they’re on their way to war again – does that help?).

There was one scene where Rostov (I think it was Rostov) falls down in battle and a French soldier approaches him. Rostov grabs his gun, but he’s never been in battle before and instead of shooting the soldier, he throws his gun at instead, then runs away in to the woods! Hilarious!

Early on in the book, we are treated to another scene in which a bunch of men are getting drunk and betting each other that they can sit in an open window sill without falling. It’s a high window. It doesn’t sound funny, but it is. Maybe you had to be there…

In terms of the “Peace” part of the book, Lise (little princess) is going to pop any minute now, Bolkonsky’s daughter (the quiet, bookish recluse) was going to marry Anatole (the arrogant bad boy), but turned him down because Bourienne (French hotty) loves him. Pierre (black sheep) went from being a nobody to the richest person in Russia after inheriting his father’s money. He married…someone…for…reasons…

The Rostov daughters are all waiting for their respective love interests to return from war. And…I think that’s about it.

I’m about a third of the way through now. I’m relying heavily on my audiobook to get me through many of the war scenes. This *could* be why I’m finding it so difficult to keep track of it all…Right? Yeah.

Okay, I’m off!

“But we have no does!”: Progress Update on Watership Down

The rabbits have now realized that they have no does and that this is a problem. Actually, they realized it shortly after my last blog post (ha!) and have been fixated on that one thing ever since. Before there was no mention of does at all, now it’s all they talk about.

The update on plot development since I last posted is as follows: The rabbits realize they have no does. They go out looking for does. They get a couple does (Hazel almost dies, NBD). They need more does. The rabbits go out looking for does. They find does at another warren. The rabbits try to take the does.

And you’re caught up!

Okay, okay – more has happened – but those are the main plot points.

I can see why this book is taught in schools – its exploration of different styles of governing and leadership styles, and not-so-subtle bias toward democracy and religious undertones would make it an easy pick for North American school boards. Similar to A Wrinkle In Time and The Chronicles of Narnia, the religious symbolism is strong with this one.

I’d like to spend some more time looking at the use of language in this book. Adams’ creation of at least 2 languages (Lapine and Hedgerow) is perhaps the most interesting part of this text. I could write a great paper about that. I’m sure others already have – but I’m just saying, if I were to study this book, that’s 100% where I would go.

Okay, I’m now making myself late so I have to run. Wrapping this up quickly: Hazel and co. have realized that a nearby warren, Efrafa, has some does they can steal convince to come live with them. They’ve devised some sort of top-secret plan to go get these does, which they are in the process of enacting.

Oh – how did Hazel almost die? Right. They “freed” 2 does from a farm and in the process of getting away, Hazel was shot. When he didn’t return the rest of the crew assumed he was dead, until Fiver set out looking for him, convinced he was still alive. Fiver finds Hazel near-death and takes him back to the warren, where he is nursed back to health just in time for Mission Doe-Possible.

Okay, now I really have to go. I’m not reading this over or editing before publishing because I don’t have time so be kind to me, readers. Until next time!