Book Two begins in October 2005 and the narrative is concerned with the war in Austria. The Russian army is cantoned in villages and towns of Austria. The Russians have marched for 200 miles and their boots have worn out. They are in disarray, understandably, and it declared that an inspection of the troops is due in Braunau. Confusion arises as the men are told firstly to change, and then change again and this reflects the lack of communication between those in the echelons of the army's hierarchy. Prince Andrei is present at this inspection, as an adjutant, and it is said that he has 'two diametrically opposed reputations'.
In Chapter IV, Nikolai Rostov is focused upon. He is a cadet with the Hussars and he cannot find the purse of his superior, Denisov. Rostov is forced to apologise for accusing Telyanin of stealing (even though the accusation is true and Telyanin admits he committed the crime). Rostov has to apologise on the grounds that he will bring the regiment into disrepute. Orders are then given that the men are to march the next day.
A description of battle then follows. Prince Andrei thinks he is going to save the army as he clearly desires glory. Whilst at Grunth with Bagration, he witnesses the whipping of a naked soldier who has been accused of stealing and this is in sharp contrast with the way Rostov and Telyanin were previously dealt with over a similar matter.
As fighting commences again, there are examples given of injured men and in Chapter XIX Rostov runs off when the French approach. His naivety (and youth) is expressed when he believes there has been a mistake: they cannot have meant to kill him. In the following chapter, further demonstrations of panicking soldiers are given and Prince Andrei delivers the message to retreat. Orders are given to abandon wounded soldiers, but some manage to drag themselves towards help. Rostov is injured and begs for assistance. That night there are boasts and lies about the brave actions performed that day.
This Book ends on a note of disillusionment as Prince Andrei thinks this is all so strange and unlike what he had hoped and Rostov wonders what he came for.
This Book concentrates on the impending war in Austria and it is made evident that both Prince Andrei and Rostov desire glory in their separate roles. This is counterbalanced by the insistent tone of the narrative that reiterates in a subtle form how their patriotism is understandable and yet misplaced. When Rostov enters into the fray, for example, his naivety is exposed as he comes to understand the practicalities of war. It is as though he has only been dreaming about heroism up to this point. It is not until the French approach that he experiences a fear of death. Through Rostov, therefore, it is possible to see an effective indictment against the simple-minded accounts of war that criticize cowardice and hold bravery in esteem. Rostov's reaction to run away is not condemned in the narrative. It is, instead, written of as understandable.
This Book is also noteworthy for how it highlights the chaos of war, which is a recurring concern in this novel. Orders are given, but they are not necessarily followed. Men retreat or decide their own actions once battle has commenced. Further to this, conflicting orders from the same army are also in evidence when, for example, the differing treatment of thieves is portrayed.
War and Peace: Novel Summary: Book Two