Military service is returned to in the beginning of Book Seven as it is revealed that Rostov is now commanding Denisov's squadron. Rostov eventually returns home, after postponements, because his mother has been writing letters pleading for help as they will soon be destitute. Both the Count and Rostov find it difficult to manage business affairs, though, and Rostov prefers to hunt rather than settle their financial problems.
From Chapter III to Chapter VII the narrative is concerned with hunting. A lengthy description ensues of Rostov, Natasha and Petya's hunt of a wolf. It is described as Rostov's happiest moment of his life when he sees the wolf pinned down. After their return home in Chapter VIII, it is made clear by Countess Rostov that she is desperate for her eldest son (Rostov) to marry a rich heiress to solve the family's financial problems. She is thinking of Julie Karagin in particular, but Rostov does not want to.
At Christmas, Natasha is still alone as Prince Andrei says in a letter that his wound has opened up again and so he cannot return home yet. Natasha is described as ordering the servants about to make sure they are submissive. Her mother, the Countess, is aware that Natasha is not going to find contentment: 'Her maternal instinct told her that Natasha had too much of something, and that because of this she would not be happy.'
This Book ends with the second generation of Rostovs dressing up as 'mummers', in fancy dress. It is at this point (when Rostov is dressed as a woman and Sonya sports a manly moustache) that Rostov realizes how much he cares for her and they kiss. Countess Rostov will not give her blessing to a union between the two, though, and describes Sonya as a 'scheming creature'. In January, Rostov returns to his regiment and the others go to Moscow without the Countess.
This section focuses on the financial difficulties of the Rostov family and their inability to manage their business affairs. In terms of the plot, Rostov is expected all the more to marry a rich heiress in order to save his family from financial ruin. Typical of this period, marriage is regarded as an economic affair rather than a love relationship and this is evident in the spite that Countess Rostov reserves for penniless, dependent Sonya now that it appears that Sonya and Rostov will marry.
The lengthy description of the wolf-hunt is a further point for consideration in this Book. This extends over three chapters and is fine in its detail. It is also brutal scene, in particular when the wolf is caught and tied up alive. The gusto felt by those in the hunt (and this is the happiest moment of Rostov's life) may be seen as emblematizing a preference for the peasant, rural life (supported by aristocratic money) rather than the slick superficiality of aristocratic, urban salons.
War and Peace: Novel Summary: Book Seven