Review: The Real Lolita by Sarah Weinman

Genre: True Crime

Rating: 3.5/5.0 stars

Main Takeaway: An amazingly mysterious and suspenseful account of the true, forgotten kidnapping that inspired the classic novel and the legacy it left behind.

Do we appreciate our stories for the way they were created? For the stories behind their creation? Or do we love our favorite novels simply for what they are: a great story? In The┬áReal┬áLolita, Weinman attempts to answer these questions by taking us back in time, to Camden, New Jersey post-World War II, and exploring the real kidnapping of Sally Horner, the girl briefly alluded to and used for the inspiration of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita. As Weinman chronicles the two-year kidnapping that takes Sally and her captor across the country, she examines Sally’s hidden role in Nabokov’s writings and the legacy Lolita left behind.

Fans of true crime and literary history pay attention, because this novel is perfect for you. The kidnapping of Sally Horner, though mostly forgotten and even in her lifetime overlooked, is a fascinating, dark and twisted read, and the parallels drawn between her and the victim in Lolita are astounding. Weinman investigates Nabokov’s writing alongside this true crime, unearthing a world of misunderstanding and debunking the myth that Lolita is a dark tale of love, but is really one of abuse.

This book was one part true crime and one part literary investigation that complemented each other so well and created such a suspenseful story that I read this book in one day. The only drawback to this book, however, was that it seemed to me just a retelling of the studies already written on Sally Horner and Nabokov, and provided little original theories or evidence. However, in that way it’s the perfect comprehensive examination of a decades old crime and the legacy created for it.

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