The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping Of Sally Horner And The Novel That Scandalized The World by Sarah Weinman

“The appreciation of art can make a sucker out of those who forget the darkness of real life.”



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.


The most recognized novel in the world is actually based on an actual crime? It shouldn’t surprised me but it does. When I found out about this novel I had to read it  I actually listened the audiobook instead. It gave more an in-depth story of how the girl, Sally Horner, was kidnapped and how it led to years of being in the hands of a monster until she finally managed to escape. I feel as Vladimir Nabokov found his muse for what it would be the most talked about novel in the world.

True crime novels have a way of gaining a new perspective in the mind of the victim and the bad guy. Learning on how Lolita was created was very intriguing and mystifying for Nabokov was basically the first write to have written something so ugly but with such sophistication that basically makes you seem to make you forget why we’re you upset about. This is the beginning of how one writer exploits a victim’s  story and characterize it into something fictional that looses the importance of how the story was indeed real and serious.

I admit that Lolita was a good novel. However, to exploit someone’s story and making it into a work of a muse is a pretty much misleading. Reading this book made me feel differently about Lolita and how Sally Horner was the poor victim of a monster who kidnapped her and also a victim of how her story was made into a fictional novel. I give this book 4 stars. I would just recommend reading it rather than listening to it because I kept losing track on where I kept stopping.

2 thoughts on “The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping Of Sally Horner And The Novel That Scandalized The World by Sarah Weinman”

  1. You are correct in your assumption that very few people know that it’s based on a true story. I am one of them. This happens all the time, writers exploiting someone’s horrific events into books and movies and we, audience, encourage this exploitation by reading those books and watching those movies. But then , we are just human and humans are characteristically curious.

    Liked by 1 person

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