Sunday, April 17, 2016

160. Virgin Soil

Virgin Soil
Ivan Turgenev
1877
Around 300 pages













I was rather disappointed that this was the last Turgenev novel on the List, as I greatly enjoyed Spring Torrents and King Lear of the Steppes.   After this book, I am quite glad we are done with him.   Maybe I should be grateful that he made our break up easier.

Alexey Dmitrievich Nezhdanov is the illegitimate son of an aristocrat.  Has there ever been a Russian novel that didn't have a character named Alexey in it?  Anyway, he gets a job as a tutor to the young son of Vasily Solomin, a local politician.  He meets and is instantly attracted to the idealistic Marianna, Solomin's niece.  Marianna is hated by her vain aunt, most likely because of her youth and political opinions.  Alexey hopes to connect with peasants and get them involved in politics.

I don't think I did a very good job of explaining the plot, but I kind of checked out halfway through.  There are plenty of overtly political novels that I have taken to, some even taking place in Russia.  But I just couldn't get interested in the 1870s Russian Populist movement.  I am going to go out on a limb here and say most people wouldn't find this novel very compelling.  Turgenev seemed more interested in getting his political agenda across than telling a good story.  Knowing what a good storyteller Turgenev can be, this was a huge disappointment.

I don't want to end on a sour note, so I will say that Turgenev's works have enriched my life; Spring Torrents continues to resonate with me.  He is probably my second favorite Russian author, after Tolstoy.  Still, I would avoid this one.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Don't really have any interesting trivia for this one, but I will provide my official ranking of Turgenev novels:

1. Spring Torrents
2. King Lear of the Steppes
3. On The Eve
4. Fathers and Sons
5. Virgin Soil

UP NEXT: Drunkard by Emile Zola.  Long time, no see with Zola but I thoroughly enjoyed Therese Raquin so I am looking forward to it.