A WRITER'S WIT
My Book World
Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel
That Scandalized the World. New York:
Weinman takes two narratives—one, the actual kidnapping case of Sally Horner, in 1948, and two, author Vladimir Nabokov’s shaping of his 1950 novel, Lolita—and weaves them into a single, seamless story. About halfway through the Weinman’s book, Sally Horner is rescued by the FBI and returned to her mother. Two years later, Sally dies, at fifteen, in a car accident, and I wonder, In what direction could the author possibly now take this book?
All along, Weinman has woven the saga of how Nabokov writes Lolita with the story of Sally Horner, providing textual proof by way of his notecards and other documents that Nabokov was indeed influenced by Horner’s story. To what degree foments a debate between Nabokov and the literati that Weinman covers extensively. She also develops the idea that Nabokov has long been fascinated by the narrative of pedophiles and the children to whom they are attracted; in Lolita he finally produces the right combination of elements, one of which is the deployment of an unreliable narrator to steer the reader away from what a sinister crime he is actually participating in. Weinman skillfully stitches together these two narratives and provides a long, relaxed denouement tying up all the loose ends: relatives affected by Sally’s premature death, the imprisonment of her captor, a discussion of the abuse of young girls and women, and more.
Because of her unrelenting research and attention paid to detail, Weinman provides a satisfying read combining the genre of true crime with serious literary discussion of Nabokov’s novel. It is one of the few books I’ve read this year that I have not been able to put down once started. It’s that good.