Interesting read, especially since I can personally relate to the story. Very few books I’ve read (in fact none at all) has explored the topic of an attractive female character who’s so overwhelmingly alluring that men would bend over backwards just to humour her. In fact, from what I can recall offhand most books seem to portray women as helpless, often subservient, to men. Actually maybe one example that comes close would be Estella in Great Expectations, where she manipulated Pip’s affections for her own selfish purposes. But Zinaida in First Love brings it to a whole new level altogether.
It’s interesting how she (a 21 year old) manages to twist her suitors round her little fingers, especially when most of them are not young and impressionable young lads but men well in their 30s and 40s, with high social standings.
Turgenev foreshadows the twist at the end (where she has an affair with the protagonist’s father) by the clues he leaves throughout the book, such as when Zinaida goes horse-riding and have rendevous with him late at night,
I’m still not very sure though as to whether Zinaida had any affections for Vladimir (the protagonist), before she started her affair with his father. The scene where she kisses him and chided him for jumping down a wall at her request when “he knew that she loved him” is one of the more revealing segments of the novella. Perhaps she was starting to have affections for him before she fell in love with his father. Or it could be that she loved him precisely for her (already present) love for his father. One can only speculate at this point at it is perhaps made rather vague.