About the Book:
A provocative, razor-sharp, and timely debut novel about a beloved English professor facing a slew of accusations against her professor husband by former students—a situation that becomes more complicated when she herself develops an obsession of her own…
“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.
If ever a cover was provocative and eye-catching, it is this one! I will tell you that in my opinion, this cover and title is not at all what I took away from the book. In fact, the main protagonist of this debut novel is unnanmed, and it is not Vladimir!
The narrator is a 58 year old college professor of English at a small liberal arts college. Her husband John has been accused of engaging in inappropriate conduct with a number of students. Our main character is not so much outraged – she and John have an understanding and an open marriage – as she is angered and bewildered that her own professional life has to suffer because of his behavior.
There is so much at play here: the politics of academia, jealousy among writers, female desire – that it is difficult to say what my favorite thing is about this darkly funny and subversive novel. I loved the narrator of the audiobook, Rebecca Lowman, because I feel that her mature, sultry and intelligent voice is what the main character would actually sound like.
John and the main character have and adult daughter who comes to stay with her mother after her own relationship breaks down. Enter into this mix the arrival of Vladimir, a handsome, charismatic professor who is also a talented writer. Vladimir and his wife Cynthia become the object of our main character’s obsessions and the story unfolds from there.
I loved the depiction of a successful, middle-aged woman who is facing her own desires and awakenings (“I was swimming in an ocean of electrical impulses. I was a body made of walking nerves.”) This is not a thriller, or a romance in tis strictest sense, but a family drama and contemporary fiction that is sly and dark and very, very insightful.
While I did not fully understand why the main character stayed with her husband John, who seemed somewhat indifferent to their marriage, I did understand her love and respect for her daughter and for the life she built with her family. I am not sure this book will resonate with anyone under the age of 40 but I applaud the author’s debut novel and can’t stop thinking about it!
(Thank you to the publisher and Libro.fm for providing an audiobook listening copy in exchange for an honest review.)