War and Peace Saturday: Chapters 64-70

We see a battle that was doomed from the start (the readers knew this and the smarter military people knew this, but everyone else was a bit delusional). I loved the imagery of the Russians running around in the foggy valleys while Napoleon’s forces sat above watching them and just waiting. It definitely reinforced the “doomed” feeling.

Prince Andrew thinks he’s finally got his moment, then he is injured and captured. He meets his hero Napoleon–and I think it is very interesting that a lot of these Russians really admire Napoleon, who is in the process of attacking them. But he sees that Napoleon is very vein, taking joy from gloating over the captured officers and making sure to show off how great he is. (I felt that Napoleon could have made a worse impression if he’d wanted to–I mean, he treated these prisoners very well, but I guess this nice treatment just made Andrew feel worse. If you’re going to be captured you at least should get to prove how tough you are by surviving torture and refusing to give up any Russian secrets and all that, right?)

Meanwhile, Rostov goes on leave and lives it up in Moscow. We hear rumors/updates about some of our other characters, like Pierre, whose new wife has cheated on him with that Dolokov. Also we hear that everyone believes that Prince Andrew is dead. I am definitely curious to see what happens with his family–his wife and his father.

Well, that’s about it for this week! I’m looking forward to see what happens next!


Bleak House: 43 “Esther’s Narrative”

Chapter 43: “Esther’s Narrative”

Summary: Esther, Ada, and Jarndyce visit Skimpole’s decrepit house and see his family of daughters just like him. (His poor wife). Then Sir Leicester visit Bleak House and tells Jarndyce he is welcome any time. Esther feels now is the time to tell Mr. J about her parentage. We learn that Lady Dedlock’s sister used to be Boythorn’s wife until Esther came to be. Mr. J reassures her that she shouldn’t feel guilty about where she comes from.

Reaction: That Mr. J is a really decent guy. Somehow he puts up with all those Skimpoles and only ever seems amused at their craziness. And the first thing he does–and the only thing he does that whole night–is to reassure Esther and bring her spirits up. Action on that issue can wait.

Prediction: I’m sure Mr. J will have some good advice for Esther. And this advice will move the plot along as well.

Why This Book Is a Classic: I was just admiring today how Dickens is able to build up his characters so that you form an opinion of them without knowing why and then, as the story goes on, you learn why you should or shouldn’t like someone. I was thinking of Richard in particular. I never really liked him, and now we have a good reason not to like him. He’s not a bad person necessarily, but he’s not on the “good” side either.

Our Lesson: Don’t marry someone with the last name of Skimpole unless you’re looking for a good way to ruin your life.

Bleak House: “In Mr. Tulkinghorn’s Chambers”

Chapter 42: “In Mr. Tulkinghorn’s Chambers”

Summary: Now we go back to London with Mr. T. Old Snagsby comes to visit and complains that the French maid Hortense has been bugging him and making his wife jealous. Then Hortense comes and confronts Mr. T. She wants a new job, or to help him ruin Lady Dedlock’s life. Mr. T. tells her no to both and threatens to have her arrested if she comes around anymore. She storms off spouting out threats.

Reaction: It was short. I don’t know if T should have dismissed Hortense like that. He seems to underestimate women, and I think she could be big trouble for his plans of making lots of money.

Prediction: Hortense is not done with them yet. She doesn’t seem too afraid of prison, and she is desperate for revenge. Trouble is brewing for Lady Dedlock, and Esther too.

Why This Book Is a Classic: Fear and loathing of French foreigners. If it were modern, she’d be Mexican.

Our Lesson: French maids may be a sex symbol, but they can also be trouble.

Bleak House: “In Mr. Tulkinghorn’s Room”

Chapter 41 “In Mr. Tulkinghorn’s Room”

Summary: Tulkinghorn and Lady Dedlock meet in his room at Chesney Wold. Lady Dedlock is prepared to disappear in the night now that her secret is out, but Tulkinghorn tells her to stay. He wants only to protect Sir Leicester (his source of money and business), and he knows that Leicester will be ruined socially, emotionally, and, most importantly, monetarily, so he tells her she has to stay and keep up the lie she’s been living.

Reaction: The meeting I expected took place. All the characters acted pretty much as I expected.

Prediction: This is not the end of the issue. There are other characters at work here and they will force someone’s hand, whether Lady D or T. Nothing in a novel can stay the same for long (or it would be boring).

Why This Book Is a Classic: Secret meetings like this over affairs and money can happen in any novel about the rich and privileged, but they happened in classics first.

Our Lesson: If you’re going to have an illegitimate child, be prepared to keep that secret forever.

Bleak House: “National and Domestic”

Chapter 40: “National and Domestic”

Summary: Sir Leicester and Lady Dedlock are back in Chesney Wold, as are all of the money-seeking cousins. There’s some stuff about those Doodles and Coodles. Then Tulkinghorn comes for a visit and tells a story about a fine lady who had an affair with a wild military captain and had a secret child. Lady Dedlock was upset.

Reaction: Oh, that Tulkinghorn–he’s after something to show his cards like that to Lady Dedlock. The plot thickens, as Sherlock Holmes says. And all that Doodle/Coodle stuff–it definitely has to do with Sir Leicester and his view of the nation’s politics, and Dickens definitely doesn’t have a high opinion of this view, but beyond that I have no idea what they’re talking about when that starts up.

Prediction: I predict that Tulkinghorn wants something from Lady Dedlock. I don’t know what, but he’s let her know that he’s found her out, so now she has to go to him to find out what it will take to keep this a secret.

Why This Book Is a Classic: Classic class system politics. Sure, nowadays it’s still pretty much the rich in office, but all of our political people have to pretend they are just like the common people. Then, though, at least one political party was in power simply because they were rich and privileged.

Our Lesson: The only way to get on Sir Leicester’s good side is to agree with whatever he says or to be richer and more influential than he is. He’s not very smart, though, so really you can just pretend.

Bleak House: “Attorney and Client”

Chapter 39: “Attorney and Client”

Summary: Richard consults his attorney, Mr. Vholes, concerned his case is going nowhere (it is) and will continue to go nowhere over the break (it will). Mr. Vholes is considered a very respectable man, and he assures Richard that he will not give up. Then we jump to Guppy and Weevle; Guppy tells Weevle they are done with all the Krook/letters stuff. If those letters still exist and they find them, Guppy intends to destroy them. The Smallweeds are searching Krook’s place for anything valuable, and Tulkinghorn is lurking around as well.

Reaction: I was surprised to see that Mr. Vholes actually does seem respectable. Other characters have been described one way and have revealed a gaping hole of contradictions, but I haven’t seen anything like that in his case, except an exceeding fondness for his three daughters (not an inappropriate gross one–just that they come up a lot). And I was impressed that Guppy seems to be keeping his promise, though I figured he would. He rises a little in my esteem.

Prediction: It doesn’t matter that Guppy is no longer involved in the search. Tulkinghorn is already on the same track, and he’ll find what there is to find.

Why This Book Is a Classic: Lawyers aren’t all dishonest–some even keep their words.

Our Lesson: You might actually be able to trust the stalker-lawyer who makes a sworn statement to you–maybe.

Workout Playlist: 3/25-3/31

Sorry–it’s a really busy weekend, so I’m sticking with my same playlist for the third week in a row. It’s been a good one, though. The only thing I’m really considering changing right now is somehow working in a second round of planks–maybe a different style, maybe not. My kettle bell instructor was explaining how that’s the best thing to work your total core because it does your back as well as your front, and my back definitely needs work. I think my work is paying off, too. In class we did a plank on a ball and she had us go up on our tip toes if we could, and I did and held it for her whole count!

Okay, gotta run! Here’s to a great week!