cover image First Love

First Love

Mikhail Roshchin. Marion Boyars Publishers, $19.95 (0pp) ISBN 978-0-7145-2932-5

This straightforward account of innocent love between a 16-year-old student and a young fifth-grade teacher draws on Roshkin's reflections of life in post-WW II Moscow. The unnamed narrator, a high school senior, is drawn to vulnerable Anna Nikolayevna (nicknamed Blondie by his classmates), whose past is similar to his own: his father never returned from WW II and was listed as missing in action, while Anna's fiance was killed during the war's last days. Assigned as Pioneer troop leader for Anna's class, he is thrown in constant contact with her; their attraction is immediate, though their affair is limited mainly to stolen kisses and impassioned conversations. They are quickly found out, with consequences much more severe for Anna than for her ``paramour.'' Roshkin evokes the gleeful excitability of adolescents, convincingly expresses his narrator's giddiness and heartbreak, and intimately describes the claustrophobic, small-town atmosphere of the Soviet capitol 40 years ago, with its beer-halls and bathhouses. (Aug.)