Odd though this may sound, War and Peace is a comfort read. I reread it every year. There is nothing intellectual about this classic, despite Tolstoy’s occasional philosophising. I adore the Rostovs and the Bolkonskys (especially Masha/Mary/Marie), whether they are gossiping in the drawing room or riding horses in the confusion of battle. And what about the flight of the residents from Moscow when Napoleon and the French are at the gates? Very suspenseful!
In my family it is a joke the number of times I’ve read W&P. “Please read something else.” A few years ago, when my husband saw me loading the Vintage Classics edition into the bike pannier before a 30-mile ride, he said,”That’s why you have back problems.”
I was blithe. “It’ll be fine!”
But he was right. I hate to admit it, though. At four pounds and 1,273 pages, W&P tipped over the bike every time we stopped for a break. The trick was to lean it against a tree and then lean against it bodily before it toppled.
“I told you so.”
And so, quite sensibly, on the next ride I switched to the Oxford paperback, which only weighs 2.1 pounds.
Recently I decided to reread War and Peace. I took it with me on a bike ride again: the Oxford.
But am I losing my strength?
I planned to bike to a park, choose a nice bench in the shade, and read for an hour. The problem? THE WEST WIND WAS GUSTING AT 23 MPH! I was out in the open and it was a struggle. Finally I reached the woods.
I sat on a bench and the wind blew the hair across my face. I had one barrette, and though I pinned my hair back as far as possible, it kept escaping and whipping into my eye.
And when I stopped for a restroom break at a convenience store, the bike tipped over. Crash! The wind, the big purse, a water bottle, a thermos of tea, and W&P. It capsized!
So I sat down on the sidewalk and drank a Diet Coke.
Really, I do think I’m losing my strength. Or is it just the wind?
I’ll have to take my tablet next time and read the e-book. I wanted to get back to the book, but…