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  1. Mishell added a post in a topic War and Peace   

    My reading of Part Three was broken, distracted, and strung out over some rather difficult months, and so I don't have it in my head as a particularly coherent whole.  That said, I was surprised to find that the battlefield sections captured me more thoroughly in this section than the domestic.  I did enjoy watching Pierre get trapped into a marriage with the chillingly calculating Helene.  I especially love his final (internal) words on the subject:  "It is too late now, it's done; besides I love her."  Besides I love her.  Besides.  Heh.
    My favorite part of this section is poor Nicholas Rostov and his terrible, glorious crush on Emperor Alexander.  The culminating scene speaks so, so personally to me it's almost uncomfortable: him finally having the chance to be alone with the object of his adoration, and instantly thinking of a thousand reasons why it would be unseemly to actually approach him.  Riding away only to see another man approach and earn a moment of the Emperor's most vulnerable, intimate trust.  That entire scene was just heartbreaking and yet funny.  It amazes me how relevant and personal so much of 19th century Russian literature feels.
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  2. Mishell added a post in a topic War and Peace   

    I am still reading this!  Life just got reeeeeallllllllly weird for a bit.  I'll be posting my thoughts on section 3 shortly.
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  3. Mishell added a post in a topic War and Peace   

    I've finished the second section of the book now, and while I have tremendous difficulty understanding the details of war: hierarchies, strategies, formations, etc. - it didn't keep me from enjoying the other stuff that Tolstoy is good at.  The characters continue to be interesting and vivid, and I loved many of the more personal, emotional moments and small ironies.  My difficulty with wartime details doesn't so much decrease my enjoyment as simply slow me down.
    I loved the bit where Nicholas is unable to accept the fact that the French soldiers might actually intend to kill him, when everyone else seems to like him so much.  Really illuminated the complete detachment from reality that comes with wealth and status, compounded in his case by the naivete of youth.  I hope his arm's going to be all right, but I have absolutely no idea.  He seems like a good kid, if spoiled.
    Prince Andrew surprised me by being rather likable in this section, whereas I couldn't stand him in the first.  He is definitely more in his element on the battlefield than in the ballroom.  A bit overly idealistic, perhaps, but I think it's good to balance out some of the cynicism, meanness, and sheer ineptitude that's seen elsewhere in the military.
    Tolstoy's ability to evoke the sensory detail in the setting is really amazing.  Even having zero experience with that part of the world, or with war, I finish the section feeling as though I'd been immersed in the battle, both the beauty of the setting and the horror of the carnage.  I can't help but wish I were fluent in Russian and could read the poetry of it in its original form.
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  4. Mishell added a post in a topic The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde   

    Yes, this was about the point at which I disappeared into the murky swamps of Deadline Land.  Always happy to chat about it, though!  My main takeaway from it was that it's amazing how entertaining a read it still is even when there is absolutely zero mystery left in a day and age in which its "twist" has become part of household vocabulary.  When you know what's coming, it becomes less mystery and more suspense - how will people react when they find out what's going on?
    It actually got me thinking about my own books (structured as mysteries) and how I wanted to write them so that they also functioned as suspense if you already knew whodunit and how and why.
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  5. Mishell added a post in a topic War and Peace   

    Oh yes, I adored that one too.  Anna was the "General" of which I spoke in my first post.  Merciless!
    And yes, Andrew's complete lack of concern for his wife's health, in that day and age... it's like he's never met anyone who had children.  What happened to Andrew and Mary's mother?  Did it say and I forgot?  If she died in childbirth I'm going to punt him off a cliff.
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  6. Mishell added a topic in News & Announcements   

    How to Join the Forums
    Hi!  You'll notice there's no forum signup form - that's because this is less of a forum and more of a house party.  So if you want to virtually hang out with us, just contact me and let me know, and I'll send an invite.
    While this is an invite-only forum, you don't have to be anyone in particular to get an invite.  You just have to contact me and let me know you're human.  In order to sign up, I'll need an email address (no one will ever see this but me, I am 100% in charge here), so the easiest way would be just to email me from the address you want to use for the forums.
    Once you get here, please treat this forum as you would my home.  I'll try to be a good host.
    • 2 replies
  7. Mishell added a post in a topic War and Peace   

    My thoughts on part one:
    My personal reactions, without peeking at Spark Notes etc - As with Dostoevsky's work, I love the vivid quality of the people in this novel.  Tolstoy introduces a huge number of characters with (for an American) confusing names, and yet even I had very little trouble remembering who was who.  He has a wonderful way of giving each person a prominent "tag" such as a mole, or just being "that guy who tied a policeman to a bear," so when you are introduced to the character in a different context, your memory is quickly jogged.  That was a really interesting thing, for me: the way I kept running into the same characters in different context.  I felt I was looking at the same complicated 3-dimensional puzzle from various angles, and that it gave me a much deeper picture of the whole.
    For example, I had read quite a ways into the chapter about poor sad lonely Mary before I realized that was the same woman who was suggested as a match for the roguish Anatole in the very first chapter (or was it the second?).  When I finally made that connection it gave me a satisfying feeling of a puzzle piece sliding into place, but even before I knew how she connected to previous characters I was already very sympathetic to her.  My favorite line in the entire first section is the one that comes right after she reads her friend's letter describing her as having a lovely gaze, or something like that, and she looks into the mirror and decides her friend is just flattering her.  Because, as my translation puts it, 
    "But the princess never saw the beautiful expression of her own eyes - the look they had when she was not thinking of herself."
    That just got me right in the heart.
    Only after looking at the Spark Notes on the section did I notice the titular metaphor in play: the social scene with its warlike strategies, its generals, its victors and conquered.  Looking forward to reading the next section, which seems to involve itself with war more literally.
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  8. Mishell added a topic in 100 Books Club   

    War and Peace
    So...... this was supposed to be a September selection, but a) Arcadia Project Book 2 was due at the end of that month and b) it's 1000 pages long, so I'm not even 100% sure I'll finish reading it by the end of October.  Hopefully I'll get back to a book-per-month schedule eventually.
    As of today, I've read through the first section, and I'm enjoying it, but I'm not quite ready to comment yet.  Anyone is welcome to join this little forum and give your thoughts.  If not, I'm more than happy to continue publicly talking to myself.  Whatever keeps me reading!
    • 10 replies
  9. Mishell added a topic in 100 Books Club   

    The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
    This was the book club selection for August 2015.  Love it?  Hate it?  Got stuff to say?  Go for it.
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  10. Mishell added a topic in 100 Books Club   

    Fathers and Sons
    This was the book club selection for July 2015.  Love it?  Hate it?  Got stuff to say?  Go for it.
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  11. Mishell added a topic in 100 Books Club   

    Brothers Karamazov
    This was the book club selection for June 2015.  Love it?  Hate it?  Got stuff to say?  Go for it.
    • 0 replies
  12. Mishell added a topic in 100 Books Club   

    Crime & Punishment
    This was the book club selection for May 2015.  Love it?  Hate it?  Got stuff to say?  Go for it.
    • 0 replies
  13. Mishell added a topic in News & Announcements   

    Welcome to my forums! (Work in progress.)
    In the coming months I'm going to organize this space a little better.  It's largely going to be used to hold book club discussions, but if people start wanting to talk about my work I'll make space for that, too.  
    This is a "friends only" forum, but you, too can be a friend!  If you want to join the forums and/or my book club, just give me your email address via my contact form, tell me a little about yourself if we haven't met, and I'll hook you up.
    The book club is a somewhat informal and sometimes not-exactly-monthly discussion of the books in Easton Press's 100 Greatest Books collection.  You're welcome to chime in on the threads for a book you've read, even if we discussed it a year ago and you weren't there.  That's the nice thing about forums.
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