Ada, or Ardor: A Family Chronicle

By Vladimir Nabokov

I'd never read anything by Nabokov before, and perhaps this wasn't the best book to start on. Nabokov's last book, Ada, or Ardor is also one of his longest. Given the man's dense prose style, it's a wonder that I finished in a mere three months. (I had actually anticipated that it would take me another two months.) One of my favorite authors, Gene Wolfe, is often compared to Nabokov and now I can see why. Both authors have a passion for language, for the written word. Both write complex characters set in rich worlds and use dense, amazing prose to show them to us. Ada is an amazingly beautiful book, a real pleasure to read. But I hesitate to call it a beautiful story, because even though it is an intriguing, romantic, erudite, sexy story, it is also a rather disturbing one. The book follows the love between Van and Ada Veen from beginning to end, a love that is passionate and complete but nonetheless wrong as it is an incestual love. I found myself completely drawn into this story at the same time that I was slightly repulsed by it. The love story would have been enough, but there's so much more to Ada, a lot of which I didn't fully understand despite taking nearly three months to read it. For example, the book is also an examination of the nature of time. Part of this is made explicit later in the book as we read a lecture that Van gives on just that subject, but it's actually interwoven into the very structure of the book. I'm sure there's a lot I missed, and some day I'll have to come back to it. For now, though, I think I'm ready to dive into something nice and light.

Started: 5/26/2005 | Finished: 8/24/2004

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