War & Peace - Part 1

Abridged Audiobook

Written By: Leo Tolstoy

Narrated By: Edward Petherbridge

Publisher: The Copyright Group Ltd.

Date: May 2017

Duration: 2 hours 25 minutes

Summary:

Tolstoy's epic novel, War and Peace, deals with some of the most momentous events of 19th-century Europe, reaching a climax in the French invasion of Russia. However, although war and rumours of it cast a shadow over all the characters' lives, the chief concern of the author was the private emotions and actions of the Russian nobility. In the early part of the story, Pierre Bezuhov, the self-tormenting hero, searches for a meaning to life but finds it empty, whilst for Natasha Rostov, life and love hold endless promise.
1. ANNA'S SOIREE. Anna Pavlovna Scherer, a lady at court, greets Prince Vassily Kuragin with a tirade against Napoleon. Prince Vassily, however, is more interested in finding a post for his son Ippolit. Anna suggests marrying Anatole, Prince Vassily's other son, to Princess Marya Bolkonsky, an heiress. Soon after, Anna holds a soirée, at which Pierre Bezuhov, illegitimate son of a wealthy count, arrives from Europe. Pierre makes a bad impression with his defence of Napoleon, but Prince Andrey Bolkonsky comes to his rescue.

2. SINGLE MEN. Pierre tells Andrey that he does not know what to do with his life. He is not drawn to the usual professions, but is increasingly disgusted by his dissolute life in the company of Anatole Kuragin, with whom he is staying. Andrey warns him against marriage. Pierre is tempted into another night of debauchery. Princess Anna Mihalovna Drubetskoy visits the family of Count Rostov in Moscow, and they gossip about old Count Bezuhov and the shameless escapades of Pierre.

3. DEATH AND MARRIAGE. Pierre attends the Rostovs' ball and dances with their 13-year-old daughter, Natasha, who is childishly thrilled by the whole event. Count Bezuhov dies from a stroke and leaves Pierre his fortune. Everyone now discovers how charming Pierre is and Anna Pavlovna invites him to meet Ellen Kuragin. This alarms him, but he eventually finds himself marrying her. Prince Vassily takes Anatole to propose to Princess Marya.

4. THWARTED PLANS. When Anatole sees plain Princess Marya, he regards engagement to her as a joke, but he is attracted to Mademoiselle Bourienne, Marya's French companion. While walking in the garden, pondering the outcome of a union with Anatole, Marya sees him embracing her friend Amélie Bourienne. Stunned, she later declares to her father and to Prince Vassily that she never wants to marry, delighting her father who saw straight through Anatole's shallow nature, and disappointing the Prince.

5. LOVE AND DESPAIR. Young Nikolay Rostov, with his friend Denisov, returns home from his regiment to a hero's welcome. Sonya, Nikolay's impoverished 16-year-old cousin, is in love with him and he is flattered. Natasha tells her brother Nikolay that Sonya wants him to consider himself free of any ties to her, but he prevaricates. His father gives a dinner at the English Club, at which Pierre is present. Pierre is depressed, having heard rumours of his wife's infidelity with Dolohov a dashing officer. Dolohov insults Pierre and is challenged to a duel. Next morning, they fight with pistols and Pierre wounds Dolohov, who misses with his shot.

6. SEPARATION. Pierre returns home in confusion and passes a terrible night in his study. The next morning, when his wife berates him for fighting Dolohov, his temper snaps and he smashes a slab of marble onto the floor. Ellen flees, screaming. A week later, accepting that his marriage is over, Pierre makes over most of his property to Ellen and leaves for Petersburg. At the Bolkonskys' estate, news comes that Prince Andrey is missing, perhaps dead, after the Battle of Austerlitz. The old prince is cast into despair and fears for the worst but Princess Marya persuades him not to tell Liza, Andrey's wife, who is heavily pregnant. Liza goes into a long and difficult labour and, that same evening, Andrey returns unexpectedly at the same time as the doctor.

7. A MEETING. Liza dies giving birth to a son. Meanwhile, Pierre, on the road to Petersburg, stops at a resting station. He is oppressed by the futility of his life but can see no way out. While he is brooding, another traveller approaches him. The stranger recognizes that Pierre is troubled and offers to help him. Realizing that the man, Osip Alexyevitch, is a Mason, Pierre is sceptical, but is impressed by his fellowship. The old man gives him a contact in Petersburg and warns him not to return to his old ways.

8. LOVE'S ROUGH PATHS. Natasha, a debutante, goes to a ball in Petersburg where her beauty impresses everybody. She sees Pierre Bezuhov speaking to Prince Andrey, a handsome officer. She dances repeatedly with Andrey and they rapidly fall in love. They become engaged, although old Prince Bolkonsky insists on Andrey waiting a year before he can marry. Andrey goes abroad for his health, leaving Natasha depressed at home. Nikolay loves the penniless Sonya and wants to marry her, but his parents, now also impoverished, want him to marry an heiress. Nikolay returns to his regiment, leaving Sonya alone to face the hostility, and the Rostovs go to Moscow.

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