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Author Topic: French invade Moscow!  (Read 385 times) Average Rating: 0
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Rambam
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« on: April 10, 2014, 10:12:31 PM »

Been reading War and Peace, and I just came to the end of Book 3 (spoiler alert!) -- Napoleon's invasion of Moscow. This part of the book is disappointing. The Russian army retreats past Moscow, the city is emptied, the insane and criminals are released from the asylums and prisons, the city is practically empty. Napoleon basically waltzes into a ghost town -- probably wondering "where the heck is the Russian army?" -- and waiting for Russian troops to pour out of their hiding spots. The bells of the churches in the Kremlin start to ring for vespers -- the French thought it was the signal for the Russian troops to attack ... and nothing.

I can't imagine how anxious, terrifying, and even spooky this day must have been for everyone. What a great story this would be to tell! But Tolstoy? He's so busy trying to beat us over the head about how absurd the whole French invasion is that his description focuses on the comic, messy, dirty chaos -- bordering on levity.

An event that inspired Tchaikovsky's 1812 Overture has to have led to a novel or two that's at least as stirring. So, I'm wondering -- any of you all know of a novel or even a non-fiction book that tells this day with a bit more drama than Tolstoy musters? I've seen a novel out there called "Moscow: A story of the French invasion" by Fred Whishaw. Is this any good? Are there other options?

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« Reply #1 on: April 30, 2014, 05:09:08 PM »

I have not heard of this particular book, but there is one in English that many think of as definitive. It is called "Russia against Napoleon" by Dominic Lieven. It is a non-fiction account written by an author whose ancestors actually fought against Napoleon. Much of the information in the book is from the Russian State archives and wasn't available before. It's available on Kindle.
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« Reply #2 on: April 30, 2014, 05:12:53 PM »

Wow -- thanks! I'll take a look.

I gotta admit, in the meantime, that I have since watched the Audrey Hepburn/Henry Fonda version and the Mosfilm 8-hour version of War and Peace, and the Mosfilm version does an amazing job with the battle scenes, especially Borodino, but the portrayal of the Moscow invasion in both flicks was lackluster.

Thanks again, Levsky!



I have not heard of this particular book, but there is one in English that many think of as definitive. It is called "Russia against Napoleon" by Dominic Lieven. It is a non-fiction account written by an author whose ancestors actually fought against Napoleon. Much of the information in the book is from the Russian State archives and wasn't available before. It's available on Kindle.
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vamrat
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« Reply #3 on: May 15, 2014, 09:40:48 PM »

As I recall, the French invasion of Moskva was pretty lackluster.  I think the long retreat would be more interesting, though I have to admit ignorance on the majority of this campaign.  My readings usually focused on the Peninsular Campaign and the Hundred Days.

Was Borodino where Bagration died?  I know you can't hardly find a Napoleonic wargaming group without tripping over half a dozen Borodino scenarios, and there's something about Redoubts, but I really don't know a whole lot.
« Last Edit: May 15, 2014, 09:42:15 PM by vamrat » Logged

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« Reply #4 on: May 20, 2014, 12:50:39 AM »

Yep. Borodino was where Bagration was killed. So there's at least one question I can answer on Jeopardy thanks to Mr. Tolstoy.

Unlike Moscow, Tolstoy's description of Borodino and Austerlitz are amazing -- worth slogging through the whole book for those scenes. And the Borodino scene in the Mosfilm 'War and Peace' may be the best battle on film I've ever seen.



As I recall, the French invasion of Moskva was pretty lackluster.  I think the long retreat would be more interesting, though I have to admit ignorance on the majority of this campaign.  My readings usually focused on the Peninsular Campaign and the Hundred Days.

Was Borodino where Bagration died?  I know you can't hardly find a Napoleonic wargaming group without tripping over half a dozen Borodino scenarios, and there's something about Redoubts, but I really don't know a whole lot.
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