The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel That Scandalized the World

The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel That Scandalized the World

by Sarah Weinman


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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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062661937
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 09/10/2019
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 166,347
Product dimensions: 5.30(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Sarah Weinman is the editor of Women Crime Writers: Eight Suspense Novels of the 1940s & 50s and Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives. A journalist and critic, Weinman has written for the New York Times, Vanity Fair, and the Washington Post, among other outlets. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.

Table of Contents

Introduction: "Had I Done to Her…?" 1

1 The Five-and-Dime 15

2 A Trip to the Beach 21

3 From Wellesley to Cornell 27

4 Sally, at First 33

5 The Search for Sally 39

6 Seeds of Compulsion 45

7 Frank, in Shadow 57

8 "A Lonely Mother Waits" 67

9 The Prosecutor 73

10 Baltimore 83

11 Walks of Death 93

12 Across America by Oldsmobile 101

13 Dallas 111

14 The Neighbor 117

15 San Jose 125

16 After the Rescue 135

17 A Guilty Plea 143

18 When Nabokov (Really) Learned About Sally 151

19 Rebuilding a Life 157

20 Lolita Progresses 165

21 Weekend in Wildwood 169

22 The Note Card 177

23 "A Darn Nice Girl" 183

24 La Salle in Prison 189

25 "Gee, Ed, That Was Bad Luck" 199

26 Writing and Publishing Lolita 205

27 Connecting Sally Horner to Lolita 217

28 "He Told Me Not to Tell" 229

29 Aftermaths 235

Epilogue: On Two Girls Named Lolita and Sally 253

Afterword 261

Acknowledgments 271

Notes 275

Bibliography 297

Permissions 301

Index 305

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The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel That Scandalized the World 3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
Anonymous 9 months ago
I have never read someone’s doctoral dissertation, but if I had, I’d think it would read like this book. I thought the book would be all about Sally Horner (though this author proves through painstaking research that not much is really known about her). What the book is actually about is a “contrast and compare” of how much Vladimir Nabokov relied on this news story to change/ finish his literary classic, Lolita. If this is a subject that you are truly interested in, then you should read the book.
runnergirl83 More than 1 year ago
Sarah Weinman researched the 1948 kidnapping of Sally Horner and how it influenced Vladimir Nabokov's writing of his novel Lolita. Most of the time I read fiction, and only occasionally something nonfiction if it's something that catches my eye. I found this book interesting, I liked how the author just brought more to the story. I recently read a fictional account of Sally Horner and Lolita, so reading nonfiction and reading more about both was interesting. I liked how the author wrote more details about Sally Horner, the author Vladimir Nabokov and his writing process of Lolita, and then just observations about the book Lolita itself.