“Any fan of Nabokov’s Lolita will be enthralled by Sarah Weinman’s investigation of the real-life kidnapping and sexual assault that became the basis for the 20th-century masterpiece. Weinman dives deep into the archives to piece together the ties between fact and fiction, even when the author or the victim’s family refused to discuss history. Swapping between true-crime journalism and contemporary literary analysis, the author brings new attention to Nabokov’s seminal work and draws the tragedy of Sally Horner out of obscurity.”
— Ariel Jacobs, Solid State Books, Washington, DC
"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.