This was total fun. 1930s, boarding school, mean girls, Russian émigrés (including Vladimir and Vera Nabokov stand-ins), literature (including a mysterious missing manuscript), the politics of entitle...
ment vs. deprivation, murder plots, and some really enjoyable writing—super smart but not heavy. Recommended to anyone who likes any of the above. Thanks to #NetGalley for the e-galley.
And just for the hell of it, I pulled Nabokov's Invitation to a Beheading off my shelf, because a home library is the best thing ever when it actually replicates the kind of free association you'd use a real library for.
I had a hard time getting into this book. I initially started it, but stopped and read another book instead. Then I revisited it and found the first section a little slow and hard to get through. (I have no idea if this is merely due to the story being slow or me just not being in the right head space for it. I imagine it was a little of both.)
I stuck with it though, and was rewarded with an interesting and beautifully written story. However, I'm afraid I didn't really fully notice or appreciate that fact until I was nearly to the end. Because of that, maybe this book is more like a 3.5 for me, personally.
Ultimately the story is a slow burn (you likely won't understand where the title comes from until the final pages.) An impressionable, rather naive young woman named Zoya has an affair with a married man named Leo. As most affairs go, it's a pretty dysfunctional relationship in which man takes advantage of the young woman's naïveté. To further complicate matters, Leo is married to a pretty complex, formidable woman named Vera who has a history with Zoya and isn't about to simply walk away from the relationship. (I love this line from Vera, "Women,' she said with a little laugh. 'The quieter we are, the less we're seen? The more we get done.'")
Ultimately this book is a character study of one woman (Zoya), with interesting glimpses at another (Vera), and nearly no peeks inside the head of Leo--the man whom both women love. This lack of detail for his character makes Leo the least interesting one in the book (he almost comes off at times as cartoonish). But the women are complex characters with rich back stories. At times it's difficult to know which one of them to root for. Ultimately you, the reader, are likely to just hope Zoya finds some simple happiness in her lonely life. Thankfully the book creates some great drama around the complexity of that task.
Thanks to the author and NetGalley for granting me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.