Thursday, August 18, 2011
First Love, 39/100
The novella First Love was my introduction to Ivan Turgenev, having never read much from the Russian Greats.
As the title suggests, the story is about love. First love! And all the heartbreak, silliness, and tragedy that comes with it. The protagonist, 16-year old Vladimir Petrovich, falls in love with his slightly older neighbor, who in true 19th century fashion is being courted by like ten other guys. Like all teenagers frustrated and in love, he becomes jealous and angsty, even to the point where he hides in a garden at midnight, planning to stab a mystery rival. Which sounds serious, but was actually pretty hilarious. When he finds out who has stolen the heart of sweet Zinaida, it's a huge surprise (well, for him -- the reader can figure it out fairly easily a few pages in).
This is the first novella I've read that I really wish was a full-length novel. As a 124 page read it works, but it seems like so much is missing. A lot of questions left unanswered and perspectives unexplored. What was the point of having Zinaida be from a "disgraced" royal lineage? Why/how did she fall in the love with...the person she fell in love with? And he with her? This wasn't like Mathilda, which I can't even fathom as a full-length tome (can you imagine how many more times we'd have to read the word despair? Alas!). Even though I now know the story, if First Love was lengthened into a 300+ novel I would absolutely read it.
You can buy the novella from Melville House, or read it for free here.