|Image Credit: Mooks and Gripes|
And what a beautiful book! From the first page, First Love has you in its thrall. At once riveting, and emotional, there is scarce a dull moment. And the emotions that Turgenev invests the book with! Vladimir Petrovich as the narrator who talks of his very first love - the first blush of passion at 16 - with Zinaida, the daughter of Princess Zasyekin. The old Princess is struggling for money, and Petrovich quickly begins an intriguing obsession over Zinaida. It is Zinaida's character that interests one the most - at once beautiful and charming, she is also flirtatious and ruthless. She flirts with as many as five men at the same time, and keeps them guessing all the time. Not that the men seem to mind. They just seem overawed to be in her presence all the time. Thrown into this tempestuous setting is poor Petrovich. Unable to understand the first torments of love, he immediately evokes sympathy, and dare we say, empathy? Every tense fiber of Petrovich's emotion is beautifully written.
Turgenev is a master in capturing human frailties. At no point of time did I feel the setting unnatural or the emotions improbable. The book reads almost like a thriller, and I found myself waiting to turn the page...waiting to see the end. There is a strain of melancholy throughout the book, which may perhaps be one reason why I love the book so much as I am such a sucker for melancholy! It's the ending though which is achingly beautiful, which can bring a lump to the most hardened of throats. Some of the most powerful passages I have ever read in literature is packed into the last two or three pages:
Oh! Sample this will you?
What has come of it all – of all that I had hoped for? And now when the shades of evening are beginning to close in upon my life, what have I left that is fresher, dearer to me, than the memories of that brief storm that came and went so swiftly one morning in the spring?
"I cannot even begin to convey the feelings with which I left her. I never wish to experience them again, but I should count it a misfortune never to have had them at all."
This has to be one of the most romantic and beautiful books I have ever read. Trust me, for me to like a 'romantic' book, it has to be something. I now know I am going to go to that bookshop again and buy another of Turgenev's classics!