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The Real Lolita

The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel That Scandalized the World
Narrated by: Cassandra Campbell
Length: 7 hrs and 26 mins
4 out of 5 stars (122 ratings)
Regular price: $23.95
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Publisher's Summary

Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita is one of the most beloved and notorious novels of all time. And yet, very few of its readers know that the subject of the novel was inspired by a real-life case: the 1948 abduction of 11-year-old Sally Horner.

Weaving together suspenseful crime narrative, cultural and social history, and literary investigation, The Real Lolita tells Sally Horner’s full story for the very first time. Drawing upon extensive investigations, legal documents, public records, and interviews with remaining relatives, Sarah Weinman uncovers how much Nabokov knew of the Sally Horner case and the efforts he took to disguise that knowledge during the process of writing and publishing Lolita.

Sally Horner’s story echoes the stories of countless girls and women who never had the chance to speak for themselves. By diving deeper in the publication history of Lolita and restoring Sally to her rightful place in the lore of the novel’s creation, The Real Lolita casts a new light on the dark inspiration for a modern classic.

©2018 Sarah Weinman (P)2018 HarperCollins Publishers

Critic Reviews

The Real Lolita is a tour de force of literary detective work. Not only does it shed new light on the terrifying true saga that influenced Nabokov’s masterpiece, it restores the forgotten victim to our consciousness.” (David Grann, author of Killers of the Flower Moon)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Meandering and tedious while never delivering the promised story.

10 chapters in, the author finally admits that she was never able to find out much about what happened to the girl. I wish I’d known that before buying the book. So, the result is hours and hours of talk on topics she was able to find out about. Half way in I had to call it quits.

22 of 23 people found this review helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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Questionable premise

I feel the author has made too much of comparing Nabokov’s and poor Sally’s stories. Authors often draw on real life events for their books of fiction. It’s a work of fiction, after all. The evidence she uses is fairly weak. However, she’s done a great service in directing attention to the fact that the book is story of child rape. Too often, because Nabokov’s genius, people aren’t able to see past the seduction of Humbert’s audience. Sally’s sad life is reflected in Lolita, but not copied from it.

8 of 8 people found this review helpful

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A great story, but contains “a shimmer of errors”

Contrary to what the author purports about most “Lolita” fans, I was familiar with Sally Horner’s story prior to reading this book. I enjoyed the expanded history of the events surrounding Horner’s kidnapping, and the story of how “Lolita”’s penmanship unfolded. Weinman makes a compelling case for Nabokov’s knowledge of Horner’s story, and indeed, I think it is likely he knew more about Sally than he ever let on.

However, having read “Lolita” several times, I was dismayed by several glaring errors about the novel’s text. Such obvious mistakes cannot help but make me worry whether there are other problems with the text that I didn’t catch, not knowing the history of Horner, LaSalle, Nabokov, and other real-life characters. Perhaps, the book will be revised in the future, to correct any other mishaps.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Self-important reader.

The reader is too overly dramatic in her style. It’s actually awful to listen to her read each and every sentence as if it was some pinnacle climax of the story. Also, because parts of the book are written in first person, the reading makes the author sound as if she thinks of herself and her work as being self-important. If I didn’t have to read this book for book club, I would have stopped listening in the first chapter. Tone it down— not every sentence needs to be read as though it’s a pinnacle moment in a Russian tragedy.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Odd and disappointing

This book is an odd mixture of literary criticism and true crime. The literary criticism would be better situated in an article in a literary journal, and the true crime portion is skimpy and lacking in details. The author has lots of excuses (the crime happened a long time ago, records are hard to find, witnesses are elderly or dead, etc.), but other true crime authors have managed to unearth plenty of details on crimes that occurred much farther in the past, so perhaps she just isn't that great a researcher. As far as the link to Nabokov's Lolita is concerned, it is rather tenuous (one brief mention of Sally Horner in the book, and a general resemblance to her story). But (unfortunately) Sally Horner is not the only girl to be kidnapped and molested by a pedophile, so the link is weak. And in any case, Nabokov took a sordid story of the kidnapping and molestation of a young girl and turned it into a great (though disturbing) work of literature. Which exact story (or stories) may have inspired him is hardly relevant.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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difficult to follow

the story line is odd, jumps around, talks too much about random characters that sometimes make no sense. seems to be a lot of speculation about Sally's perspective, what's the point? save your credit.

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Excellent look at an important nove's context

Excellent and meticulously researched study of an abduction case in America after WWII and the linking of this case to Vladimir Nabokov's writing of his masterpiece LOLITA -- a connection that Nabokov himself kind of denied.

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Great for Lovers of True Crime and Lolita

Fans of Nabokov's Lolita and true crime will both find something here. It's a quick read/listen and details are all too scarce about what actually happened to Sally Horner, but the author does her best with the sources at her disposal.

Also helps as a reminder of what a monster Nabokov's anti-hero really is. In fact, while I say it's good for Lolita fans, those fans who see Delores as a seductress and HH as a real hero will probably feel uncomfortable with this book.

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Disappointing

The narrator does only an ok job. Her attempt at character voices failed. However, that was tolerable. What was really problematic was the writing....it bounced all over the place with no real fluid flow of the story. Not only that, but there was a great deal of unnecessary commentary about supporting subjects within the story. It seems as if this was done to fill up time and space....fluff. It became aggravating. I wouldn't recommend this book.