Almost as reviled as it is beloved, Lolita holds a unique place in pop culture: What other classic has inspired slang, countless knockoffs, even a fashion subculture? And as dark as the plot is, it has an even uglier backstory. "Had I done to Dolly, perhaps, what Frank Lasalle, a 50-year-old mechanic, had done to 11-year-old Sally Horner in 1948?" She gets just one line, but Sally Horner was a real person and her story is heartbreaking. Journalists didn't make the connection between the real girl and the fictional aside until years after the book's publication. Even then, Vladimir and Vera staunchly denied any outside influences, but Weinman makes a compelling case. Meticulously researched and compulsively readable, the dual narrative of author and potential muse is told with compassion and grace. The Real Lolita is a fascinating read and a sobering reminder of the genuine horror behind Nabokov's beautiful words. Recommended By Lauren P., Powells.com
Synopses & 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
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 eleven-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.
“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
“Sarah Weinman’s captivating, heart-rending The Real Lolita offers both nuanced and compassionate true-crime reportage and revelatory cultural and literary history. It will, quite simply, change the way you think about Lolita and ‘Lolitas’ forever.” Megan Abbott
“Sarah Weinman delivers a thoroughly riveting and heartbreaking narrative that weaves the very best of true crime writing with the darker elements of literary inspiration.” Gilbert King
About the Author
Sarah Weinman is the editor of Women Crime Writers: Eight Suspense Novels of the 1940s & 50s (Library of America) and Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives (Penguin). She covers book publishing for Publishers Marketplace, and has written for the New York Times, the New Republic, the Guardian, and Buzzfeed, among other outlets. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.