I finished it on Friday, so looks like we are reading at a similar pace for now.
I wish everyone was always referred to by name, but I liked Tolstoy's descriptions of army placement and strategy. Seemed like he's good at quickly getting across the important points, in contrast to my memory of Victor Hugo in Les Miserables, who as I recall would spend LONG chapters describing the setup for a battle in excruciating detail and ENOUGH ALREADY. (I love that book, but there are parts I'd like to cut.) And it seems like Tolstoy describes strategy and such for the purpose of the characters, and their reactions to it, which I like. Hugo... maybe eventually got there, but after a long chapter of geography and army placement, with nothing about characters to break it up, until the end of it. I particularly liked how Tolstoy explained in Chapter 14 why Prince Bagration was needed to delay Napoleon's army so the rest of the Russian army could retreat without being destroyed or cut off from reinforcements. (I mean, I couldn't visualize where they all would be on a map, particularly in relation to where reinforcements would come from, but I can take Tolstoy's word for it.)
Well, and I guess I liked all the parts about how the characters affected the war, too. I think it's tempting to think of war as just movement of pieces on a game board, and to forget that human decisions affect it (and that doesn't just mean the officers and commanders). Like this bit,
"Zherkov, not removing his hand from his cap, turned his horse about and galloped off. But no sooner had he left Bagration than his courage failed him. He was seized by panic and could not go where it was dangerous.
"Having reached the left flank, instead of going to the front where the firing was, he began to look for the general and his staff where they could not possibly be, and so did not deliver the order."
And this part made me laugh, in a sad way, heh: "The general and colonel looked sternly and significantly at one another like two fighting cocks preparing for battle, each vainly trying to detect signs of cowardice in the other. Both passed the examination successfully. As there was nothing to said, and neither wished to give occasion for it to be alleged that he had been the first to leave the range of fire, they would have remained there for a long time testing each other's courage had it not been that just then they heard the rattle of musketry and a muffled shout almost behind them in the wood."
Liked the part in Chapter 20 about "That moment of moral hesitation which decides the fate of battles had arrived." It continues with the sort of writing setup that normally culminates in the tide turning, but then, "The moral hesitation which decided the fate of battles was evidently culminating in a panic."
And later about that same general (I believe) who couldn't get his soldiers to obey him and stop fleeing,
"'When I saw, your excellency, that their first battalion was disorganized, I stopped in the road and thought: "I'll let them come on and will meet them with the fire of the whole battalion"--and that's what I did.'
"The general had so wished to do this and was so sorry he had not managed to do it that it seemed to him as if it had really happened. Perhaps it might really have been so? Could one possibly make out amid all that confusion what did or did not happen?"
Anyway. I know I've read in other novels about the idiocy of political admirals -- in David Weber's Honor Harrington series, but I think maybe in something that was more directly about Russian military too, though I can't remember what it was -- but I liked the way Tolstoy, in comparison, just had subtle digs at all of that. Especially the contrast between appearances and dress versus actual competence and courage. I think that general I mentioned above was the same one that was so proud of his record and his soldiers in parade dress and everything in Chapter 1, and upset with Dolokhov being in a blue coat.
Then Timokhin is Dolokhov's commander, scolded for Dolokhov's dress, mentioned as a drinker, but then right after the quote about "moral hesitation" in Chapter 20 Timokhin saves the day with his sharpshooters. "It was Timokhin's company, which alone had maintained its order in the wood and, having lain in ambush in a ditch, now attacked the French unexpectedly. Timokhin, armed only with a sword, had rushed at the enemy with such a desperate cry and such mad, drunken determination that, taken by surprise, the French had thrown down their muskets and run."
And the other hero is Tushin, who we first meet before the battle being scolded for not even wearing his boots. But he stays with the artillery, and Prince Andrew says in the end, "...'we owe today's success chiefly to the action of that battery and the heroic endurance of Captain Tushin and his company.'"
Good point about Nicholas. I'd just been thinking of it as one of those things where it doesn't seem *real* that people actually want to kill you, but you're right, it doesn't seem to be just a weird emotion for him, but an actual belief that they couldn't want to kill him! Hope he'll be okay, too. I really have no sense in this book of who Tolstoy might or might not be willing to kill off, it's too different from other novels I've read. Prince Andrew seems like a main enough character he won't be killed, but maybe Tolstoy will be willing to kill main characters too, who knows? He certainly has enough of them!
Yeah, I... could stand Prince Andrew in the first section, but was definitely rolling my eyes at him. But his impatience with social niceties serves him well in the military, though you're right, he's idealistic. Or was until the end of the section, I hope his disillusionment doesn't start him down a dark road. They need someone who so sincerely tries to do the right thing, instead of just keeping up appearances.