A Book Review: The Real Lolita– The kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel That Scandalized the World

The Russian writer Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977) examines his spectacles. Rome, ca. 1959. (Photo by © Hulton-Deutsch Collection/CORBIS/Corbis via Getty Images)


Anyone who attempts to review or analyze any of Vladimir Nabokov’s masterpieces (especially Lolita), must start with the premise that his prose transcends most or all that has been written. Lolita is not a book for many people either because of the complicated subject matter or that it is a complex read. I recently reviewed Lolita and said the following.

“Lolita is a novel that purports to narrate the confession of Humbert Humbert who marries a woman to be close to her daughter, the twelve-year-old Delores Hayes.

This is a pretext. The real richness is the way the book occasions the wit of the educated Humbert as he recounts his disdain for middle America and the opportunity for a man with a particular mania for nymphets, to describe the ecstasies and agonies of indulging it.

The book solves an aesthetic puzzle; how to render a story that combines moral monstrosity and elegance.”

While Ms. Weiman’s book does not match the elegance of Nabokov’s writing, it is clear that she has carefully researched the details of Florence “Sally” Horner’s abduction and repeated rapes by a madman. The author’s stated goal is to establish that Nabokov weaved aspects of Horner’s true ordeals into his novel. She does a fair job at that. However, that has always seemed clear– Horner’s abductor is named in Lolita. Weimans attention to detail saves the book from a 3-star rating.

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