Journalist and editor Weinman combines literary theory and true crime in this speculative account of the 1948 kidnapping of Sally Horner, an 11-year-old New Jersey girl who Weinman posits was the real-life inspiration for Vladimir Nabokov’s iconic 1955 novel.
Weinman points out the many parallels between the novel and Sally’s life (so cruelly shortened after her rescue—she was just 15 when she died), while chronicling Nabokov’s own cross-country journeys, writing habits, and denial of the Horner connection. Weinman’s sensitive insights into Horner’s struggle play in stunning counterpoint to her illuminations of Nabokov’s dark obsession and literary daring, and Lolita’s explosive impact.
The book includes a few odd digressions and a fair amount of conjecture. More poignantly, Weinman argues that Nabokov and his wife, Véra—who served as her husband’s spokesperson and flatly denied the use of Sally’s story as inspiration for his novel—allowed Sally to be eclipsed by her fictional counterpart ... Drawing from interviews with relatives of those involved, Nabokov’s personal documents, and court reporting from La Salle’s trial, Weinman tells Sally’s tragic story as it has never been told before, with sensitivity and depth.