©2008 BBC Audiobooks Ltd;
College English professor who loves classic literature, psychology, neurology and hates pop trash like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey.
Fathers And Sons is one of my favorite Russian novels, and this lesser known work, First Love, now becomes another of my top-ranking volumes of east European literature. Like Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, Turgenev is the literary precursor of the psychologist, teasing out the inner thoughts and motivations of his characters, painting them in umber scenes, often melancholy and reflecting on the past. First Love is about remembrance, hope, regret, and the full oeuvre of human emotion, a moving and compelling work of art.
Among the great 19th century Russian novelists, Turgenev is counted among the greatest but nevertheless seems to find himself in the shadows of the Titans, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, perhaps because Turgenev's works are shorter by comparison. But his novella , "First Love," is the equal of any piece of fiction ever written. I can't say too much more in detail or I'll give away the ending--which is absolutely electrifying. And, accompanying this superb work of fiction, the book is narrated by a no less superb reader, David Troughten.
The final image of the novel, of the old lady in rags and dying on a hard floor with a sack under her head as she fights to stay alive despite a lifetime of misery gives the novel a greater perspective than just a young man sadly in love with a woman he won't have. The novel speaks to a greater need for people to live, at all costs and at any price, no matter the amount of pain it inflicts.
I have to admit to not feeling as close to Vladimir as I would have liked. Not because I didn't share any of his experiences - what young man hasn't - but there was a strange formality in him that seemed at odds with his age. I understand he was well bred and that his manners contrast beautifully with the situation of his love, but even when he was most mad, in the garden at midnight, I never really felt like I was with him. Had this been a slightly more modern novel - say written in the 1910's or 20's - there might have been a needed sexual undercurrent that is sorely missing here. I can't blame Turgenev since we have to consider when the novel was written, but still it's an element of human nature that is important.
Zinaida, however, though we never get the novel from her point of view, I felt much closer to. Her character is the real strength of the novel because we learn so much about her through her actions and the actions of everyone around her. She is a flirt, she is manipulative, she is poor (having once been wealthy), but she is not a bad person. In fact I felt more empathy to her than I did towards Tolstoy's Anna - they were similar women, but Zinaida felt more ... within reach. She wanted to be in love, not just be loved. And who doesn't want that? All her suitors were dolts, except for the one man who did have her.
I liked the image of his father's horse, the near wild Electric. This mirrored the father quite poetically and gave substance to his feelings in a way we could understand.
All-in-all this is a very sad novel, but it does speak to how we struggle in life to live and how imperfect we are. Yes we may know the right things to do, but passion is almost always stronger than logic.
"A bewitching story told with authority and charm."
A strange question. Hopefully they would be identical. I haven't read the book.
A sequence of moments: the thrilling, excruciating games the heroine compels her suitors to play.
I have heard Mr Troughton sing 'Blue Light Boogie' in 'Tales Of Sherwood Forest' , and I have seen his fabulous wiggly dance.
I was entranced. And finally exasperated by the misjudged abruptness of the author's ending.
Turgenev's head was so large that when he died the medical authorities pickled his brain as a curiosity to amuse undergraduates.
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