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Picture of the week - Building the new hospital

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After the construction was delayed for years with endless discussions where it should be built the extension of the hospital is finally being built. Next to my house. So I did not only have the noise from the city airport, but also from construction. Yay me!

War and Peace Book 4

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Book 4 is covered in the second half of episode 2 and most of episode 3. Everyone is suffering the consequences of their bad decision making, and I was very happy to have checked beforehand who dies and who survives in this book. Get the pop corn!

Let's introduce the villain for this part:

Tom Burke is having so much fun as Dolokhov. He does not look as described in the book (blonde and clean shaven), but his personality is the same. He messes with Pierre, simply because he hates being depended on such a loser for money and with Nikolai, because he is annoyed that Sonya is in love with the younger, cowardly, naive man, instead of him.

It is not made explicitly clear in the book whether Helene actually had an affair with Dolokhov. It is very obvious though that Dolokhov wants to get a rise out of Pierre with constantly alluding to it and is delighted when Pierre, impulsive as he is, challenges him to a duel. Shooting Pierre in a duel after humiliating him with an affair with his wife is his idea of fun. Pierre proves here that he has no right to call anyone stupid, he challenges a sharpshooter in the army to a duel, when he doesn't even know how to use a gun.

Oh Pierre....

In the book it is made more explicit that challenging Dolokhov to a duel wasn't only stupid because of the high likelihood of dying, but also because of the scandal and ruin it can bring. By challenging Dolokhov, Pierre basically publicly accuses Helene of the affair. Additionally, when she confronts him about potentially ruining her standing in society, he proposes separation, which he can only legally do by accusing her of an affair in a court of law. If he can prove it, she and her family are basically ruined, if not, he will have to pay for the separation. Pierre does not propose separation out of malice, but out of desperation to get out of a marriage that is extremely toxic for them both. Helene is of course concerned about the material implication, which are much more dangerous for her than him and being used to being able to use his fear of her to get him to do what she wants keeps pressuring him. It ends with him throwing a table. It is described as the frightening act of violence that it is and Pierre leaves her in control of most of his wealth and leaves St Petersburg in disgrace. (as he should)

Nikolai isn't much better in his decision making. His naivety, callousness with money and stubborn pride makes him fall into Dolokhov's trap. It is very clear that Dolokhov is cheating gambling with cards, but Nikolai refuses to see it and in the end ruins his family with his dept. Jack Lowden is amazing in the whole episode. He expresses all the emotions, stubborn disbelief to deer in headlights fright during the gambling scenes. When confessing to his father he goes from denial over bravado to crushing guilt and regret.

It is really sad that most of his character development stops here in the TV series. In the book he grows up after this episode, holds himself accountable for his mistakes, lives within his means and pays back all his dept. He has a lot of integrity in the book, which gets lost in the TV series.

So what about Andrei? Who dismissed all his wife's fears as trivial compared to his quest for higher purpose and honour?

Hope you like being a single father, Andrei... And he manages to become even more insufferable as a result.

During the past chapter / episodes we have been checking in with Natasha, who is slowly going from being a child to a teenager. She is quite thoughtful, wondering what it means to be in love (a recurring theme is her measuring feelings on how well she remembers her "suitors" faces, while they are away, which pays off later).

She is also very much team Pierre and always defends him when he does something stupid.

Here she is getting her first marriage proposal, from Denisov, who is nothing but lovely in the TV show (in the book he as a whole side story of stealing supplies for his regiment). The proposal, the rejection and how graciously the rejection was received were all lovely.

In my head canon he and Sonya get together at the end, because they are both lovely people and Sonya deserves a good husband instead of being basically part of Nikolai's and Marya's furniture. I mean, just look at her:

Picture of the week - Tulip

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Summer is almost over...

War and Peace Book 3

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Book three has two major narratives, the first is Pierre's first steps as count Bezukhov and marrying Helene, the second is the battle of Austerlitz.

Here is Pierre vocalizing the narrative arc for the character. He wants to do something good, but does not know what and is constantly hindered by his own weaknesses. His weaknesses lead him to make terrible decisions and the first of many is marrying Helene (she is written Hélène, but I'm not going to bother with the accents).

Now, i have to say that I am very much team Helene, mainly because both the book and TV series sympathise with Pierre. I really would like to someone to write War and Peace from Helene's perspective. Call it "What has my idiot husband done now?". Helene's reason for marrying Pierre are very simple: He has money, she likes money and as a bonus he is easily manipulated. I became a fan of hers with this scene:

They are newly wed and she is ninja like avoiding his advances (I can relate).

In the TV series, Pierre seems to actually be infatuated with Helene. He is just apprehensive and feeling uneasy about her (the music is really funny when it comes to Helene, she has her own horror theme). The book is much more unforgiving towards his reasons. He neither loves nor respects her. The above scene would never have happened in the book, as Pierre is equally terrified of and disgusted with Helene. He constantly thinks of her as stupid (really Pierre, YOU are calling people stupid?!). He keeps on entangling himself with her because:
  1. She is hot and he really wants to sleep with her
  2. She is hot and he wants a wife he can show off with

In the end he is so deeply entangled that Vasily can simply announce the engagement:

To be fair, this would also be my reaction if I were suddenly engaged. Stunned confusion.

The marriage conflict in the series seems to be mostly, Pierre wants a real marriage, Helene only wants to be left alone and enjoy the money. In the book they are equally awful to each other. Helene is annoyed at having an unfashionable husband who habitually embarrasses himself in society. She also tells him "I'm not going to have any children with YOU" (in the TV series it is the much softer "I'm not the motherly type"). Pierre is equally judgmental. He looks down on Helene's societal ambitions and interests, thinking of her as stupid. He also, after marrying her for being seductive and hot, judges her for being very sexual (this might be Tolstoy's own view of women coming through) while constantly engaging in what Tolstoy describes as:

temptations of the bachelor circles in which he moved

Anatole is engaging on a side quest of trying to court Marya, which he immediately fucks up, because he cannot even control his impulses for a weekend and ends up seducing Marya's French companion. Tolstoy really confuses me with his treatment of women. Sometimes I get annoyed and then he goes and lets them be complicated characters. The French companion, whose name I am too lazy to look up, could have just been a superficial character, a prop to be seduced, but Tolstoy explores her emotional state. She is alone, without relations in the middle of nowhere in Russia and dreams up the live of a romance heroine for herself. She dreams of being seduced by a Russian noble, who then marries her out of compassion. Obviously, that is not what happens with Anatole. Marya has nothing but understanding for her French companion.
I like also how Tolstoy acknowledges female sexual desire. Both Marya and Natasha fall for Anatole out of sexual desire for him, not romantic feelings and while Tolstoy makes it clear that marrying someone, just because you think they are really hot is a bad idea (see Pierre), he does not condemn their feelings, but treats them as natural. Their weakness is not their desire, but their inability to fully understand it, due to their innocence. Would Tolstoy have advocated for sex ed of girls?

As usual the war part is shortened a lot and with it a lot of the tension is lost. In the book there is a whole build up, with everyone but Kutuzov eager to attack the French in the name of glory, while Kutuzov argues for caution as no one knows the exact position of the French. As this is Austerlitz the reader knows it does not end well for the alliance. Before the battle the tension is increased with the fog (hiding the French) being mentioned several times with characters staring into it, wondering if they are hearing voices or seeing movement. It is a horror story moment.
The lead up to and the battle itself has also some of the first examples of the theme of how the disposition of the mass of people moves historical events, rather than singular decisions by "great men". Everyone is pushing for an attack, so Alexander gives the order. When the French appear like ghosts from the fog, the soldier panic and the disorder causes the smaller French army to win. The commanders have little influence over the battle itself, with news and orders being delivered much to slow to have any effect. So how are our boys doing?

Andrei continues to be disillusioned. When he brings news of the victory from the battle from book two, no one is impressed. All the sacrifice and heroic actions do not matter much in the big picture. He has a moment of considering his wife and family, sure he is going to heroically die.

He gets his big moment leading a charge waving a banner and gets badly insured. Close to death he has an epiphany of the insignificance of human action and his quest for glory:

It will still take a few books for him to not be insufferable.

I enjoyed Nikolai's part much more. I really like his book character and am sad his role is very reduced in the series. He is contrasted with Boris, who is way more worldly, uses his connections to advance, understands the social rules of the army, that Nikolai has a hard time learning. He dislikes using his family connections to advance in the army and calls out a superior officer when he catches him stealing, not understanding he should stay quiet to protect the honour of the regiment. Bless his heart. He also has the biggest crush on Czar Alexander.

He writes his own fanfiction in his head on performing heroic actions in front of Alexander and dying in his arms. Alexander is constantly described as very handsome, so good on them on casting a very handsome actor.

Picture of the week - Dandelion

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I shot this picture holding the camera in one hand and the dandelion in the other, shaking it to release the seeds. A lot of timing was required.

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