Leo Tolstoy embarked on 'Childhood, Boyhood, Youth' in his early 20s. Though he later regarded his first published sketches as an 'awkward mixture of fact and fiction', they provide a highly expressive self-portrait which makes clear the man and the writer Tolstoy was to become.
Tolstoy had a difficult childhood, and at this time in his life, after seeing the Crimean War, and having been through so much - a difficult childhood, with both parents dying young, we see both the intense frustration he has with the world, but also his sensitivity and goodness - his ability to understand people, which so colors the rest of his work. It is partly his own life shown here, but also the childhood he wished he had. He paints these innocent scenes so well that one can recognize their own self in it - or is that just me, with my delusions of grandeur of being like him in some way?
In any case, a very good book. Recommended for Tolstoy fans, as well as anyone reminiscing about childhood.
Another wonderful thing about these novellas is the description of how the Russian landed classes lived, how they interacted with their peers and with their subordinates, how they interacted with the opposite sex, what was thought 'comme il faut' and how important propriety was to this society. There is something a little 'Jane Austenish' about it.