Sunday, July 07, 2019

Before I Grow Too Old - A walk from John O'Groats to Land's End

For years I have been talking about wanting to walk the length of Great Britain, from the tip of Cornwall to the top of Scotland. Knowing this, my daughter Sarah lent me a book she read by Pat Jilks, who did just that, except the reverse, taking a couple of months to walk from John O'Groats in Scotland to Land's End in Cornwall.

Before I Grow Too Old - A walk from John O'Groats to Land's End is not your typical book--no chapters but rather a collection of diary entries, without dates, in which Pat chronicles the path she took, where she slept, ate, had tea, took refuge from the rain.

I couldn't do what Pat did--I don't mean the actual walk, that I can and will do--but the lack of structure to her journey. She did map out her route, with alternatives, but she wanted maximum flexibility and so didn't book any B&Bs or hostels ahead of time, which meant that on occasion she was forced to sleep rough or find shelter in barns, hay lofts, woods, parking lots, etc. Many of her days were spent trying to figure out where to rest that night, where to eat, and where she was. She did get lost a fair amount, and at one point her precious maps blew away. She often relied on her compass to get her back on track.

One of the things I learned about the north-south trek, unlike the Hadrian's Wall Path trek that I started exactly two years ago tomorrow, is that there isn't a set or preferred or marked or even suggested route. Pat ended up walking along fairly major roads more than I would  feel comfortable doing, and it's easy to see how she got turned around and missed critical turnoffs.

Apart from reading about her experience with the actual walk, I really enjoyed Pat's offbeat sense of humor. She has a light, bright way of looking at obstacles, and she often mentions chatting with people she met along the road as well as having friends join her for portions of the walk. She seems to have a gift for making friends, and much as she loves and depends on solitude to regain her energy (true introvert), she is such a social, interesting person.

I took my time reading this memoir--probably reading it at the same pace she walked it--and found it a very pleasant way to end my day, reading a few pages before I went to sleep at night.

For my own Land's End to John O'Groats walk, I need to do more research and planning but this memoir was a lovely way to start my really thinking about the walk.


BTW, I had to employ the hated approval on comments because I was hit on July 4 with some idiot who added a viagra comment to virtually every post on my blog. It took a fair amount of time to cleanse my site and I don't want to have to do that again. Please let me know at janetgs05-at-gmail-dot-com, if you are unable to post comments now.

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Springing to Summer - hodge podge of books read

My blogging has gotten very sporadic, so I thought I should catch up on all the wonderful, and so-so, books I've read recently that somehow didn't get their own post.

Tangerine by Christine Mangan - I listened to the audio version and had very mixed feelings. On the one hand, I thought the premise was creative and appealing - a young woman is stalked by her best friend, circa 1950s, after she has married and moved to Morocco. It is a psychological thriller with alternating narratives--the young wife, Alice Shipley, and her college roommate and best friend, Lucy Mason. In the end, I gave it 3 stars and I absolutely hated the ending and found the characters fairly unbelievable.

Remarkable Creatures, by Tracy Chevalier - another audio and a reread for me. Listened to this on a road trip in May and fell in love with this book all over again. About female fossil hunters in Dorset in early 1800s--Mary Anning and her friend, rival, mentor Elizabeth Philpot. Absolutely fascinating, well-written, and compelling.

Romantic Outlaws: The Extraordinary Lives of Mary Wollstonecraft and Her Daughter Mary Shelley, by Charlotte Gordon - 5 stars all the way. Loved this book and learned so much about both of the Marys and their really extraordinary lives and the impact they had on philosophy, art, and feminism.

Me Before You, by Jojo Moyes - I have been wanting to read this for awhile and finally just got the audio from the library and was so caught up in the story that I grabbed an ebook version to read when I couldn't listen. I'm currently listening to the sequel, After You, and loving it just as much.

In the Footsteps of Alexander the Great: A Journey from Greece to Asia, by Michael Wood - a really good history/travel/adventure book about not only Alexander but also Michael Wood as he and his camera crew traced Alexander's campaign from Greece to India. I had read a bio of Alexander decades ago so this was a good refresher as to the man and the world that he conquered. I started watching the TV series that this book was a companion to but didn't care for it as I felt it skimmed the facts and details that I found so interesting in the book.

The American Agent (Maisie Dobbs #15), by Jacqueline Winspear - oh, how I love this series. We are now in 1940 during the London Blitz and Maisie is juggling family issues while trying to solve a murder mystery and stay alive during the bombing. I am so glad that Winspear has slowed down her timeline and we get to see Maisie during various stages of the war.

Kitchens of the Great Midwest, by J. Ryan Stradal - another book that I've been meaning to read for ages. I read mixed reviews of this book, but ended up really liking what others didn't, namely the structure, which takes us through the life of ultra-foodie Eva Thorvald from Minnesota in chapters that are really stand-alone short stories from various points in her life, sometimes told from her pov and sometimes in which she is not much more than a bit player. I was hungry through most of the book, eager to try the recipes, and swept away by Eva's story from babyhood to entrepreneur chef.

Kingbird Highway: The Biggest Year in the Life of an Extreme Birder, by Kenn Kaufman - totally loved this book, spent most of it looking up birds and locations on my ipad while I read, and felt totally nostalgic for the 1970s, when Kenn hitchhiked around the country as a teenager, racking up birds, meeting the birding community royalty, and living life with passion.

I think after reading War and Peace pretty much straight through in the early part of the year, I was eager for shorter books with lots of variation. Now, I am engulfed in another chunkster, Can You Forgive Her?, so I expect my number of books read, versus pages read, to take another nosedive this summer.

Hope you all have a wonderful reading summer!

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Brideshead Revisited

Brideshead Revisited, by Evelyn Waugh, is one of those books I thought I had read in my late teen years but having just finished it now I'm not sure whether I ever did read it or just thought I did.

At any rate, it was an excellent foray into the dark side of the Downtown Abbey world. Taking place in the years between WWI and WWII, the story recounts the cracking and fragmentation of a gentry family, which parallels the cracking and fragmentation of the British Empire and the established order. The narrator, Charles Ryder, encounters the family home of the Flyte family, Brideshead, in 1945 when the army has requisitioned the home for its own use and the novel is his reminiscences about his involvement with the family and his many visits to Brideshead when he was young.

Charles met Sebastian, a younger son and charming madcap, at Oxford, where they quickly became devoted friends. The novel was published in 1945, and so their sexual relationship is not spelled out but is strongly implied. Sebastian drinks to excess to escape the straitjacket of family life and the Catholicism that permeates the family, and over the course of the book retreats from family, friends, England, and the world into a permanent state of self-loathing and abnegation.

Later Charles has a relationship with Sebastian's sister Julia with whom he tries to fill the void that Sebastian has left in his life.

The whole novel is quite depressing, delving into a few of my least favorite subjects to read about: self-loathing, self-destruction, and adultery. That said, it is beautifully written, poignant, and a testament to the fact that the world I live in is more open and accepting of those who do not fit into the established grooves. Much as I love the clothes, I would never want to return to the world of Brideshead.

Sunday, June 09, 2019

Big Book Summer Challenge

Sue at Book by Book is hosting her annual Big Book Summer Challenge, and I am rising to the bait yet again. I love me a good big book.

I have a couple of classics that I need to read this year that meet the 400 page qualifier:
The Buccaneers, by Edith Wharton
Can You Forgive Her, by Anthony Trollope

And I've been meaning to read Irving Stone's Men to Match My Mountains: The Monumental Saga of the Winning of America's Far West, which also qualifies.

I'm also hoping to reread Ella Leffland's The Knight, Death, and the Devil, a chilling novel about Hermann Goring.

Who knows what I'll actually get to, but that's the tentative plan.

Sue has made her challenge wonderfully simple:

  • Anything 400 pages or more qualifies as a big book.
  • The challenge will run from Memorial Day weekend (starting May 24 this year) through Labor Day weekend (Labor Day is September 2 this year).
  • Choose one or two or however many big books you want as your goal. Wait, did you get that?  You only need to read 1 book with 400+ pages this summer to participate! (though you are welcome to read more, if you want).
  • Sign up on the first links list below if you have a blog (or in the comments below or on Goodreads if you don't have a blog).
  • Write a post to kick things off - you can list the exact big books you plan to read or just publish your intent to participate, but be sure to include the Big Book Summer Challenge pic above, with a link back to this blog (no blog? No problem - see below).
  • Write a post to wrap up at the end, listing the big books you read during the summer.
  • You can write progress posts if you want to and/or reviews of the big books you've read...but you don't have to! There is a separate links list below for big book reviews or progress update posts.

Sunday, June 02, 2019

The Song of the Lark - Willa Cather

This year's Back to the Classics challenge has a category for books set in a place you've lived. Since I am the definition of a homebody, I needed to find a book set in Colorado as I have never lived anywhere else. Novels set in Colorado are not all that common, and I could only come up with ones that are not yet 50 years old - Centennial, The Shining, Kent Haruf's eastern plains stories, a variety of mysteries (cozy and otherwise), but no real classics. Fortunately, I learned that Willa Cather's The Song of the Lark is set in the north east corner of Colorado, and that sealed the deal.

I absolutely loved The Song of the Lark. It is the story of Thea Kronberg, one of many children of Swedish immigrants, who is blessed with not only tremendous musical talent but also a string of friends and mentors who enable her to reach her potential.

At first, Thea sets out to be a pianist, and studies dutifully and advances rapidly, but her real destiny is to become an opera diva who gravitates to Wagnerian roles.

Song of the Lark - painting by Jules Breton

There is so much to love about this book...let me count the ways.

1.  Heart stopping descriptions of Colorado--from the eastern plains to the Front Range, from the light in Denver in January, to the cool magic of the stars on the plains, to the arid beauty of the landscape, to the ever-present fringe of mountains on the horizon. This is from early in the book, when Thea as a young girl is traveling to Denver by train with her friend Ray Kennedy, who works on the railroad.
They were now about thirty miles from Denver, and the mountains looked very near. The great toothed wall behind which the sun had gone down now separated into four distinct ranges, one behind the other. They were a very pale blue, a color scarcely stronger than wood smoke, and the sunset had left bright streaks in the snow-filled gorges. In the clear, yellow-streaked sky the stars were coming out, flickering like newly lighted lamps, growing steadier and more golden as the sky darkened and the land beneath them fell into complete shadow. It was a cool, restful darkness that was not black or forbidding, but somehow open and free; the night of high plains where there is no moistness or mistiness in the atmosphere.
 2. Thea's collection of men friends who recognize her talent and unique drive to excel and open doors for her and teach her and coach her and love her. Dr Archie is such an interesting character and his story arc would make a fascinating novel in and of itself. Her first music teacher, Wunsch, is a deeply flawed person who cultivates Thea's taste and hones her work ethic. I loved her embracing of Spanish Johnny and her interactions with the Mexican population in her town. Her music teacher in Chicago, Harsanyi, and his wife were also marvelous, and I suspect based on a real person. And then there's sweet Ray Kennedy, who made Thea's dreams a reality--he gave all he had so that she could succeed. Finally, Fred Ottenberg was another original character, who defied stereotype to become a lasting pillar in Thea's pantheon of gods.

3. Thea's relationship with music and her respect for and acknowledgement of her talent. One of the things I love about Thea is that she is not coy about her abilities. She knows she is gifted, she knows she has to work hard to cultivate those gifts, but the music she plays and later sings is something that is connected to her innermost self, her soul, for lack of a better term. Last year, I passed up the opportunity to hear Wagner's Ring cycle, and now I am so wishing I had made the time for it as having seen the operas and not just having heard them would have enhanced the book so much.

One of Thea's first roles was a Rhine maiden in Wagner's Das Reingold. I picture Thea as the maiden on the right

4. Thea's mother - Thea has a cast of men who help and support and enrich her, but when it comes to her parents, her father fades into the background while her mother emerges as her first and best champion who was willing to acknowledge that Thea's gifts outstripped those of her other children. Not that Mrs. Kronberg loved Thea more than the others, but she accomodated Thea more. As with O Pioneers!, The Song of the Lark is definitely a riff on the immigrant experience--seizing the brass ring when you have the chance.

5. The time Thea and Fred spend in Arizona in Panther Canyon, finding rejuvenation within the ancient cliff dwellings. I absolutely love the Southwest landscape and always feel the magic quality of the sandstone, endless blue skies, mesas, and thunderclouds. I have never read a novel before in which someone actually lives in these cave dwellings, but it stirred my own soul.

6. I've read that this book is the most autobiographical of Cather's stories, and she used it to explore the creative process, a topic that never ceases to fascinate me. I am inspired to read a bio of Cather and find out how much of Thea's story is her own--obviously, Thea's gifts were musical rather than literary, but Cather must have had a deep familiarity with music and opera to be able to write in such detail about Thea's training and the physical toll that performing took on her.

7. Cather's writing is such a pleasure to read. My battered paperback is pockmarked with earmarked pages as I turned down page after page that contained exquisite prose. Her writing contains deep insights into the life of an artist, the landscapes that shape personality and soul, and the bonds between people of all walks of life that enable the power and beauty of art to be born.

Absolute 5-star book, and another notch in my Back to the Classics challenge.

Sunday, May 19, 2019

The Boston Girl

I've read a couple of books by Anita Diamant (The Red Tent, and The Last Days of Dogtown), but her most recent, The Boston Girl, is by far my favorite. I listened to the audio version read by Linda Lavin, who was absolutely perfect doing the first-person narration.

Addie Balm is the daughter of Jewish immigrants, born in 1900 in Boston. She relates her life story focusing on her teen years and early twenties, basically from the onset of puberty to her marriage.

I loved hearing about life in Boston in the first decades of the 20th century, particularly the Saturday Club, where daughters of various immigrant groups came together to recreate, relax, form friendships, and try out leadership roles. I also loved learning about Rockport Lodge, where young women could spend a week relaxing and learning about nature and the world outside of the city.  I read an article about the book and it seems that Rockport Lodge was the inspiration behind the novel, which makes perfect sense to me.

And, of course, I loved hearing about Addie's work as first a typist, then a copy editor, then a writer for a magazine.  One of my favorite books is James Thurber's The Years With Ross, about Harold Ross, editor of The New Yorker. While the publication Addie worked for is no New Yorker, the vibe of the newsroom brought back fond memories of Thurber's memoir.

The characters in The Boston Girl are marvelous--the contrast between Addie's two older sisters, Betty and Celia, is interesting to think about--both were immigrants like their parents--one embraced the new world and the other couldn't. Addie's parents, her brother-in-law, and especially her friends are complex, interesting, flawed, and very real. And then there are her mentors--the women who invest their time and money into helping younger women find a way out of poverty and powerlessness so they can live rich, fulfilling lives. Addie's own mother was an  anchor, and not in a good way, but Addie found surrogate mothers who showed her that she had talent and worth and helped her at key points in her life.

Finally, the historical events and how they shaped lives were fascinating to read about--the sweat shops, the Great War, the Spanish flu, prohibition--they all are a factor in Addie's life.

Wonderful book--one of my favorites so far this year. It is full of energy and hope, tempered with pragmatism. Addie is a heroine that reminds me of Francie Nolan, of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Corinna's Going a-Maying

Happy May Day!

I recently started reading Caroline Kennedy's poetry anthology She Walks in Beauty: A Woman's Journey Through Poems and read this one last night and thought it would make a perfect May Day post.

Corinna's Going a-Maying

by Robert Herrick, 1591 - 1674

 Get up, get up for shame! The blooming morn 
    Upon her wings presents the god unshorn. 
    See how Aurora throws her fair 
    Fresh-quilted colours through the air: 
    Get up, sweet slug-a-bed, and see       
    The dew bespangling herb and tree! 
Each flower has wept and bow'd toward the east 
Above an hour since, yet you not drest; 
    Nay! not so much as out of bed? 
    When all the birds have matins said 
    And sung their thankful hymns, 'tis sin, 
    Nay, profanation, to keep in, 
Whereas a thousand virgins on this day 
Spring sooner than the lark, to fetch in May. 

Rise and put on your foliage, and be seen 
To come forth, like the spring-time, fresh and green, 
    And sweet as Flora. Take no care 
    For jewels for your gown or hair: 
    Fear not; the leaves will strew 
    Gems in abundance upon you: 
Besides, the childhood of the day has kept, 
Against you come, some orient pearls unwept. 
    Come, and receive them while the light 
    Hangs on the dew-locks of the night: 
    And Titan on the eastern hill 
    Retires himself, or else stands still 
Till you come forth! Wash, dress, be brief in praying: 
Few beads are best when once we go a-Maying. 

Come, my Corinna, come; and coming, mark 
How each field turns a street, each street a park, 
    Made green and trimm'd with trees! see how 
    Devotion gives each house a bough 
    Or branch! each porch, each door, ere this, 
    An ark, a tabernacle is, 
Made up of white-thorn neatly interwove, 
As if here were those cooler shades of love. 
    Can such delights be in the street 
    And open fields, and we not see 't? 
    Come, we'll abroad: and let 's obey 
    The proclamation made for May, 
And sin no more, as we have done, by staying; 
But, my Corinna, come, let 's go a-Maying. 

There 's not a budding boy or girl this day 
But is got up and gone to bring in May. 
    A deal of youth ere this is come 
    Back, and with white-thorn laden home. 
    Some have despatch'd their cakes and cream, 
    Before that we have left to dream: 
And some have wept and woo'd, and plighted troth, 
And chose their priest, ere we can cast off sloth:
    Many a green-gown has been given, 
    Many a kiss, both odd and even: 
    Many a glance, too, has been sent 
    From out the eye, love's firmament: 
Many a jest told of the keys betraying
This night, and locks pick'd: yet we're not a-Maying! 

Come, let us go, while we are in our prime, 
And take the harmless folly of the time! 
    We shall grow old apace, and die 
    Before we know our liberty.
    Our life is short, and our days run 
    As fast away as does the sun. 
And, as a vapour or a drop of rain, 
Once lost, can ne'er be found again, 
    So when or you or I are made
    A fable, song, or fleeting shade, 
    All love, all liking, all delight 
    Lies drown'd with us in endless night. 
Then, while time serves, and we are but decaying, 
Come, my Corinna, come, let's go a-Maying.

Sunday, April 28, 2019

The Scapegoat - Daphne du Maurier

I stumbled upon a movie version of The Scapegoat by Daphne du Maurier a few years ago and was fascinated by the story. So, of course, I got a copy of the book, which I hadn't read when I watched the movie, and it sat on my shelf until the GoodReads True Book Talk group read it in March.

Once again, Dame Daphne didn't let me down. The Scapegoat was a classic DMM thriller. Basic story is that a boring British academician (John) whose specialty is French history meets his doppelganger, a roguish French count (Jean), in a bar and Jean tricks John into changing places with him. Very much a Prince and the Pauper story that Mark Twain played around with, and Dickens had a go at in A Tale of Two Cities.

In The Scapegoat, Jean has made an utter mess of his life, his family business is going under, his daughter is flighty and quasi-suicidal, his sister is a religious fanatic who hasn't spoken to him for 20 years, his mother is a morphine addict, his brother hates get the picture. He tricks John into being his scapegoat - assuming his identity so he can disappear without causing a manhunt. John also feels he has made a mess of his life and is headed to a monastery to try to find a reason for living.

Matthew Rhys played John and Johnny in the British movie based on the novel.

Incredibly, John is able to step into Jean's shoes--they are identical, and John's French is perfect. It was fun to read about how he managed to figure out all the various threads of Jean's life, and wonderful to see how he was able to mend the family and the business. John is definitely the hero of the story.

The book and the movie differed most in the ending, although the movie is set in England not France, and Jean became Johnny. The book turned out to be very positive and life-affirming. The movie version took a much darker tack. I ended up rewatching the movie after finishing the book and really wonder why the film makers choose to go dark instead of light with their version.

The Scapegoat was first published in 1957, making it one of DMM's later works. It was tightly written, really interesting, especially since WWII and the French occupation and resistance is still very fresh in people's lives, and well worth reading.

This novel is part of my Classics Club first 50--I'm closing in on getting this challenge done this year!

Friday, April 19, 2019

Classics Club Spin #20

The spin # is 19 - huzzah! I started Song of the Lark this morning...set in my home state of Colorado.
Since I'm closing in on finishing my list this year, I will commit to the Classics Club Spin #20--the spin # will be revealed on Monday, April 22, and the completion date is May 31.

I have six books left to read, so I have repeated them twice with two getting on the list three times.

Truthfully, I am hoping for #1, #7, #13, #19 as I really want to read Song of the Lark next, but these are all books I really want to read, so I cannot lose!

  1. Song of the Lark, Willa Cather
  2. Daniel Deronda, George Eliot
  3. The Mayor of Casterbridge, Thomas Hardy
  4. Can You Forgive Her?, Anthony Trollope
  5. Roughing It, Mark Twain
  6. The Buccaneers, Edith Wharton
  7. Song of the Lark, Willa Cather
  8. Daniel Deronda, George Eliot
  9. The Mayor of Casterbridge, Thomas Hardy
  10. Can You Forgive Her?, Anthony Trollope
  11. Roughing It, Mark Twain
  12. The Buccaneers, Edith Wharton
  13. Song of the Lark, Willa Cather
  14. Daniel Deronda, George Eliot
  15. The Mayor of Casterbridge, Thomas Hardy
  16. Can You Forgive Her?, Anthony Trollope
  17. Roughing It, Mark Twain
  18. The Buccaneers, Edith Wharton
  19. Song of the Lark, Willa Cather
  20. Daniel Deronda, George Eliot

May the odds be ever in your favor.

Sunday, April 14, 2019

War and Peace

The obvious greatness of this book notwithstanding, what did Tolstoy have against historians?

I just finished this marvelous book, all 15 books plus 2 epilogues, all 1082 pages not counting notes and comments, and despite the wonderful story of Natasha and Pierre, Nicholas and Mary, Prince Andrew, the completely weird Kuragin family, the completely lovable Rostov family, Dolokov and Denisov, and the comet of 1812, Tolstoy choose to end his tome with a diatribe on how “modern” historians are completely wrong with their view of history as a chronicle of how “great men” (notable example being Napoleon) actually have very little or nothing to do with how events actually unfold.

It seems that Tolstoy got completely fed up with the conventional wisdom that Napoleon was a great leader and a military genius and that the Russian winter was the only thing that could defeat him (prior to Waterloo). The result of that rage against Napoleon became War and Peace, in which Tolstoy vindicates the Russian military leadership (at least Kutusov) and shows how the occupation of Moscow by the French was but a momentary setback and not a capitulation of Russia.

Like the vast majority of readers of War and Peace, I much preferred the story part, even the battle scenes, over the philosophical ramblings. There are a vast choice of topics to cover, but what struck me near the end is that Natasha can be seen to represent Tolstoy's view of Russia, she's Mother Russia. I think this can be illustrated by the men in her life.

Note - I am using the names as they were presented/translated in the version I read. It seems that there are lots of variations on the names in various editions and film versions.

*****Spoilers ahead*****

The first time we meet the Rostov family is on the occasion of the name day of Natasha and mother--she is young, full of spirit, and irrepressible. She loves life and loves the idea of being in love, and fancies herself in love with Boris Drubetskoy, son of a social climbing, ambitious mother who in turn ruthlessly pursues wealth and social standing. At the beginning of the 19th century (the story begins in 1805), Russian society was undergoing shifts as was most of the rest of European society--Boris and his mother seem to be distantly related to everyone and have to clutch and grab to keep from slipping into oblivion.

The Rostovs are an old titled family with old money that Natasha's father has managed to squander by living beyond his means and being generous to a fault. The Russian aristocracy is on shaky ground.

Next, Natasha captivates and falls in love with Prince Andrew Bolkonski, son and heir of an old tyrant. He is a born leader of men and loves being in the army, but can be cold and unforgiving. Because his father dislikes the match, Natasha and Andrew must wait a year before they can marry, during which time Natasha becomes infatuated with Anatole Kuragin--a worthless pretty boy who is only out to seduce Natasha and doesn't have a ruble to his name. When she learns that he is already married, she tries to commit suicide and spends much of the rest of the novel atoning for her sin of being faithless to Andrew.

When the French invade Russia in 1812, Andrew is mortally wounded, and is reconciled with Natasha, who nurses him until he dies.

Finally, Natasha falls in love with and marries Pierre Bezukov, Andrew's best friend, whose story is too long and complicated to tell here, but Pierre sees in Natasha a purpose for his own life. She becomes his guiding light and together they form a union that is fruitful, positive, and joyful.

Natasha evolves from lively and spirited to self-destructive to repentant to motherly. Married to Pierre, she finds her real identity as a mother, nursing her babies when a woman of her station in life at the time would never do this. The narrator says that "she lets herself go," meaning that she no longer cares about fashion and beauty and fun for herself. She is finally content with her role as mother and in her relationship with Pierre.

Through Natasha's story, Tolstoy tells the story of the Russia that he loves--Russia as exuberant but naive; Russia enthralled by the French and lulled into thinking they could be French, sacrificing their country and heritage for a culture they deem more civilized than their own; Russia committed to fighting and glorifying their army; Russia abandoning Moscow but never surrendering; Russia embracing itself and nurturing its people and their own vigor and life force.