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on 18 March 2008
Simply beautiful. One of the most overlooked of the nineteenth-century writers, Turgenev (like his friend Maupassant) was a master craftsman as well as an amzing observer of people and scenes; this little book, together with Scenes From a Hunter's Album, is his best. And here is surely the best of all the translations into English from the Russian novels: V.S. Pritchett's lucid, pared-down style fits the bill so well. Don't look further for a translation of First Love. It also has a terrific little essay by Isaiah Berlin as an introduction. Well done to Penguin for keeping this in print for almost 30 years. Maybe they should try now to reprint the marvellous collections of short stories by Pritchett, too...
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on 4 November 2001
These six stories offer subtle variations on the theme of first love, often beautifully evoked through the first person narrative to highlight the autoboigraphical nature of some of the episodes. Turgenev creates contrasts of moods which capture either the ecstacy or misery of falling in love. For example, in the title piece, 'First Love', the young boy feels the bliss of his first crush and first kiss, which is finally defeated by his own father. The main message of the book is that nothing is permanent, and that love does not lead to a happy marriage nor to fullfilment. This is enhanced by the episodic nature of the tales which often capture just one moment of a larger timescale. The book is also historically interesting as it contains some of the first Russian literature to have become widely known throughout Europe in the nineteenth century. If you enjoy these stories I would recommend you try some of Turgenev's longer novels.
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on 14 May 2016
This is a really brilliant read, shorter than the last one I read (The Enchanted Wanderer) but also I found it more engaging and read it more rapidly. It really is one of those books that I wish I'd read when I was much younger, although I'm pretty sure my less mature self would not have been interested in Russian writers or reading about the topic of love so much as experiencing directly.

The book begins with an assembled group who are telling stories one to the other, which is a great opener for a story such as this one and the Enchanted Wanderer begins in a similar fashion, however, I also think this is great in itself, evoking memories or associations with any good time that's been had doing the same sort of thing,sitting with others and listening or having them listen to you in turn, confident of the friendship or, at the very least, mutual regard for the speaker. Great books do this. Really good books do it with an economy of words and establish a good pace and style while they are doing it, drawing the reader in and stimulating a new appreciation for the ordinary or everyday.

Turgenev is definitely one of those authors who is a kind of close observer and chronicler of human experience, when the circle of friends all exchange all too brief sentiments about their first loves and then one of them says they must first commit it all to paper in order to read it back you know that something good and worth reading (and even rereading to be honest) is on its way. As I have said I wish that I'd have read this much, much earlier in my life, and been able to properly appreciate as I am now, because there is so much in this which strongly resonates with my experience but I think also would resonate with anyone and everyone, although it is love as experienced by the male, enamoured with an older female, who is perhaps more self-aware or aware of what the attentions of men mean. That isnt to say that female readership wouldnt appreciate it, not for an instant, I believe anyone would appreciate it.

The closely chronicled account of feeling and sentiments, almost every state and stage I associate with love (both at its best and worst I would suggest) is here and there is something about books like this which hark to a time of closer reflection and perhaps self-understanding which I in particular like. While there are myriad attempts to commercialise experience, appropriate it, co-opt it and sell it back to people who didnt realise they could experience it all for free in the first place, essentially experiencing and reflecting on how you feel, feeling deeply, but not giving over to some sort of disturbed, overwhelmed mindset is to be truly and more completely alive. Books giving and account like this one, a "storied" life, kind of an autobiographical tale, operate in some senses as a guide (or a vicarious adventure maybe) allowing readers an expanded, more appreciative, understanding of what everyone goes through in life.

Recommended. Heartily so.
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on 6 January 2010
Captures the frenzy of first-love with its highs and lows and renders them in beautiful, very Russian prose.
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on 22 May 2007
An accessible translation allowed me to read this like any other story; nothing difficult about it. It is extremely moving in parts, as he loves for the first time a girl who many love, including his own father. And the memory of her and his father is memorable for us all, with some universal writing about love's nature, its effects and youth. I wish i'd read this earlier!
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on 25 May 2009
A tiny short story following the first crush of a 16 year old boy who finds that his father is his rival. Accurate, perceptive and nicely twisted but not elegant enough to be a true great.

The story of a summer romance between the 16 year old middle-class Vladimir Petrovich and the impoverished, bewitching, Princess Zinaida - who moves next door. Vladimir is completely intoxicated with Zinaida who flirts with Vladimir and a circle of half a dozen other, older, boys. But Zinaida also falls in love and Vladimir discovers that it is with his own father.

This is a neat and atmospheric short story that conjures up a summer of intense puppy love for the adolescent Vladimir, exploring his own feelings and using him as a sonar to detect those of Zinaida. What brings life to this otherwise slightly sweet brew is Zinaida's hopeless affair with Vladimir's father which explodes the emotional range of the book's cast and transforms the lives of Vladimir, Zinaidia and the father too.

This would be a very modern tale remade as a movie in (say) high school America - not a million miles from American Beauty. As a book it doesn't quite have the grace or effortlessness of the very best storytellers and it reads more like a fable than the truth.
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on 4 September 2009
Read for a uni reading-list. I liked some of the more poetic, descriptive moments, and enjoyed the changing perspective on the 'first love'. Some phrases really hit home. But I didn't find Zenaida that enchanting, meaning I couldn't sympathise too much! I knew what the end would be before I'd gotten halfway through.
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on 5 April 2013
Personally i like the stories but i feel they fail to really drag me emotionally into them, the character’s behavior are to alien to me to connect.
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on 27 November 2014
Interesting read, takes you into a time of old fashioned romance. Enjoyed the characters, reminds us of old true love and loss.
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