Goodreads blurb: “When I was a child, I loved old men, and I could tell that they also loved me.”
And so we are introduced to our deliciously incisive narrator: a popular English professor whose charismatic husband at the same small liberal arts college is under investigation for his inappropriate relationships with his former students. The couple have long had a mutual understanding when it comes to their extra-marital pursuits, but with these new allegations, life has become far less comfortable for them both. And when our narrator becomes increasingly infatuated with Vladimir, a celebrated, married young novelist who’s just arrived on campus, their tinder box world comes dangerously close to exploding. With this bold, edgy, and uncommonly assured debut, author Julia May Jonas takes us into charged territory, where the boundaries of morality bump up against the impulses of the human heart. Propulsive, darkly funny, and wildly entertaining, Vladimir perfectly captures the personal and political minefield of our current moment, exposing the nuances and the grey area between power and desire.
Boy, was this fun. If you follow me elsewhere on social media, you might have seen me obsessing over this cover of Vladimir (this is apparently a controversial take, but I love it so much), and I am glad that I actually got around to it. This is a really promising and self-assured debut, and I cannot wait to see what the author does next. Vladimir is a really hyper focused character study and quite an accomplished one. We follow our nameless narrator, who is a woman in her late 50s, and basically her everyday thoughts on herself, on literature, on young people, and most prominently, on desire. What I really loved about this novel is the way that our narrator discusses her own desire and its personification in Vladimir, a new, younger professor on campus. She doesn’t desire Vladimir, not really, but she is yearning for him in a way that feels more like self-exploration. Through this obsession, our narrator explores her ideas about her own femininity, and past and present sense of self.
The one thing about this novel that I immensely enjoyed was how cynical the main character is, and especially how that ties into the the metafictional discussions that this book does – on literature and publishing, and the morality of today’s fiction. There’s also a really messy and gossipy aspect to this novel, one that makes it fun and indulgent in a way, which I appreciated a lot.
The one issue I had with this is that it started to lose me a bit by the end, especially since I was expecting it to go a bit darker than it did. And I do feel like there was a lot of unused potential in many aspects of this novel, but I do acknowledge that a book cannot and should not do everything.
Definitely would recommend this novel! It’s a compulsively readable character study and what more can you ask for, really?
Let me know if this is one your TBR, and if you have gotten around to it – did you like it? Thoughts to share? I’d love to know.
In the meantime, happy reading
*I received an ALC of this book through Libro.fm! Thank you to them and the publisher for the copy.
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