War and Peace Saturday: Chapters 325-331

For a while in this week’s reading we strayed back to war philosophizing. All I have on that part was: Why didn’t the Russians capture or stop the retreating French (apparently a question some historians have asked)? Tolstoy’s answer: Because the Russians wanted them out. They didn’t want French prisoners just hanging around. They wanted them gone too. So there.

And luckily we got back to the story. We see Natasha and Mary’s reaction to Andrew’s death. Natasha completely fell apart and is quite sickly, but then her turning/healing point comes when they receive the news of Petya’s death. Instead of sending her over the edge, Natasha is able to snap out of it to help her mother, who does go over the edge. And Mary stays by her side and they become best friends. They are so close I would say they were downright romantic, but that’s some deep reading between the lines. Though they do kiss all over each other’s faces and sleep in the same bed.

And then we digress to Kutuzov, and it is quite clear that Tolstoy is in love with him or something. Because it was all about how no one gave Kutuzov his due credit even though he really was doing everything for the people, and everyone just misunderstood him.

It’s interesting that even though Kutuzov and Napoleon are characters, I do not consider them as “real” characters when I’m reading. They’re probably in it almost as much as any of the many main characters, but because they are historical, I guess I feel like their sections are more imagined reportings of historical events rather than actual parts of the story of this epic. There are other historical characters too, but these two are more fleshed out than most of the others–yet they still don’t feel like a real part of the plot other than forces that drive the other characters’ lives. One reason I thought of–the historical characters barely, if at all, interact with the fictional characters, probably because nothing the fictional characters do could really influence them, since their fates are spelled out by reality.

I haven’t read a lot of historical fiction, so I wonder how other authors handle this. How do other fictional characters interact with historical figures in realistic historical fiction?


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