Yesterday I tucked this little volume into my case: FIRST LOVE by Ivan Turgenev
. It is one of a series of twenty novellas on love published by Penguin - a very attractively produced series in matt soft covers and at 102 small pages weighs very little, and so is easily slipped into a handbag. A novella is ideal for a long train journey and this one took exactly as long to read as my return journey, which was very satisfying. It was about the infatuation of a sixteen year old boy for a much older (by five years) woman who also happened to be a princess. This princess, however, has fallen on hard times and her family is in debt, and it is this detail that fascinated me the most in this exquisitely-told tale - the idea that a member of royalty could live next door in tatty surroundings.
By coincidence I came across an equally poignant love story
about a Russian princess in this morning's newspaper: Princess Helena Davidovna escaped the mob to Crimea where she fell in love with a private in the British army. She came back to England with him, had one son then died of TB at an early age. Her descendants came across her unmarked grave recently and are keen to remember her.