War and Peace opens in the Russian city of St. Petersburg in 1805, as Napoleon’s conquest of western Europe is just beginning to stir fears in Russia. Many of the novel’s characters are introduced at a society hostess’s party, among them Pierre Bezukhov, the socially awkward but likeable illegitimate son of a rich count, and Andrew Bolkonski, the intelligent and ambitious son of a retired military commander. We also meet the sneaky and shallow Kuragin family, including the wily father Vasili, the fortune-hunter son Anatole, and the ravishing daughter Helene. We are introduced to the Rostovs, a noble Moscow family, including the lively daughter Natasha, the quiet cousin Sonya, and the impetuous son Nicholas, who has just joined the army led by the old General Kutuzov. The Russian troops are mobilized in alliance with the Austrian empire, which is currently resisting Napoleon’s onslaught. Both Andrew and Nicholas go to the front. Andrew is wounded at the Battle of Austerlitz, an
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