The Real Lolita

The Real Lolita tells Sally Horner’s full story for the very first time.

Sarah Weinman

Vladimir Nabokov's Lolita is one of the most beloved and notorious novels of all time, selling over 60 million copies worldwide to date. Yet very few of its readers know that the subject of the novel was derived from a real-life case: the 1948 abduction of 11-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, old news stories, public records and interviews with remaining relatives, Sarah Weinman establishes with authority 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. As she walks us through Sally's story, Weinman takes us on an intimate and panoramic tour of mid-century America, from Sally's home in Camden, New Jersey, to her place of rescue in California and back to the East Coast again.

The story of Sally Horner 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. (From Knopf Random Vintage Canada)

The Real Lolita won the Arthur Ellis Award for best nonfiction crime book.

From the book

Carol Taylor no longer remembers why she and Sally Horner decided to go down to Wildwood for that summer weekend in 1952. It was mid-August, a time of relentless heat and humidity in Camden, New Jersey. Nobody had air conditioning and heading to the Jersey Shore was an easy way to find some relief.

Carol and Sally were both working summer jobs as waitresses at the Sun Ray drugstore in nearby Haddonfield. They were best friends. They were fifteen. They were just a few weeks away from their first freshman class at Woodrow Wilson High. Why not head down to Wildwood for a quick getaway?

From The Real Lolita by Sarah Weinman ©2018. Published by Vintage Canada


Interviews with Sarah Weinman

The real Lolita

4 years ago
Duration 0:55
The kidnapping of 11-year-old Sally Horner inspired Vladimir Nabokov's famous novel Lolita, but she died before the novel was published. Sarah Weinman, author of The Real Lolita, says she can't stop thinking about this photograph — and what Sally would have thought about Nabokov's novel.
In 1948, an 11-year-old girl named Sally Horner was kidnapped by a convicted rapist who made her pretend to be his daughter. Her ordeal inspired Vladimir Nabokov's controversial novel Lolita - but Sally's story has been forgotten, and she died before she had a chance to tell it herself. Michael speaks with Sarah Weinman, the author of 'The Real Lolita: The Kidnapping of Sally Horner and the Novel That Scandalized the World'.


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