A gripping true-crime investigation of the 1948 abduction of Sally Horner and how it inspired Vladimir Nabokov’s classic novel, Lolita.
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.
Sarah Weinman is the author of The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel That Scandalized the World, praised as “superb” by the Washington Post (which named it one of its notable books of 2018) and “compulsively readable” by the Los Angeles Times. She also edited the anthologies Women Crime Writers: Eight Suspense Novels of the 1940s & 50s (Library of America) and Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives: Stories From the Trailblazers of Domestic Suspense (Penguin), and her work has most recently appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Vanity Fair, and New York Magazine, among many publications. She is at work on a new book, forthcoming from Ecco/HarperCollins and Knopf Canada.
Sarah will join in conversation with reporter and Texas fact checker, Caitlin Cruz, who covers reproductive rights, women, and politics.
Cover image: Sally Horner