When the down-at-heel Princess Zasyekin moves next door to the country estate of Vladimir Petrovich’s parents, he instantly and overwhelmingly falls in love with his new neighbour’s daughter, Zinaida. But the capricious young woman already has many admirers and as she plays her suitors against each other, Vladimir’s unrequited youthful passion soon turns to torment and despair – although he remains unaware of his true rival for Zinaida’s affections.
Set in the world of nineteenth-century Russia’s fading aristocracy, Turgenev’s story depicts a boy’s growth of knowledge and mastery over his own heart as he awakens to the complex nature of adult love.
The “First love” is a frame story, which starts with a party where the guests are challenged to recount the story of their first love. When Vladimir Petrovich’s turn comes, he tells the other men that he is going to write down his story. Now it’s our turn to read about his memory.
The main character is Vladimir, a 16-year-old boy, who falls in love with the daughter of a princess, who just moved next door. The young princess’s name is Zinaida, she’s 21 and has a lot of suitors. She is not in love with any of those men and she constantly misleads them, especially Vladimir. In the end we find out that her heart belongs to someone else, Vladimir’s father, which was a big shock only for the main character, not for me, since I anticipated that from the beginning.
My biggest problem with “First love” were the characters and I must admit that I didn’t like any of them:
-Vladimir is only 16 but he acts and speaks in a more mature way, but since the book was written in 1860, maybe that’s how all the boys behaved. When he finds out that his father not only cheated on his wife, but he cheated on her with Zinaida, he has no reaction and acts like there wasn’t a big deal.
-We find out that Pyotr married his wife only because she was rich, not because he loved her. He doesn’t act like a father to his child, but like a stranger and there are only a few times when he seems to get closer to him.
-Zinainda was just a spoiled woman, she was quite difficult and I couldn’t understand what she wanted.
There were only a few moments that I really enjoyed reading about, including the ending which I thought was pretty solidly built.
I burnt as in a fire in her presence … but what did I care to know what the fire was in which I burned and melted–it was enough that it was sweet to burn and melt.
…and I would sit and gaze and listen, and would be filled with a nameless sensation which had everything in it; sorrow and joy, a premonition of the future, and desire, and fear of life.