Mary – Vladimir Nabokov (Book Review)

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Mary was Nabokov’s first novel, and was quite difficult for me to get a copy of. After months of thinking I was going to have to pay up to £25 for a used copy, I found one new for £4.

Ganin, a Russian emigre is living in a hostel with other Russians who have left due to the communist uprising. Living a fairly mundane life with people he didn’t necessarily like, Ganin learns that his neighbour’s wife, Mary, is coming to visit; a woman Ganin has a romantic history with.

I left the plot relatively short as this is a short book, being only just over 100 pages (my copy anyway). The book touches on topics such as past love, and often gives honest views into how realistic relationships work: whether it be ups and downs, or looking back and longing for what the relationship once was but failed to maintain to be.

The book also surprisingly has solipsistic themes, and with Mary not even being physically present in the story, it is interesting to learn so much of character who, in a sense, doesn’t speak for herself, but through the opinions other’s have of her.

The book is Nabokov’s first and not his best, but definite evidence of the wordplay he was to master is present in a lot of the descriptions.

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