“When I was a child, I loved old men, and I could tell that they also loved me.”
And so we meet our deliciously incisive narrator: a popular English professor whose husband, a charismatic teacher 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 extramarital 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.
Thank you so much to Hope at Picador books for offering me a proof copy of Vladimir via Instagram, the premise appealed to me and the book was making some noise on social media, so it was without hesitation that I said yes!
Told in the first person voice of the unnamed English professor – wife of John, who is currently awaiting a hearing following several complaints from former students relating to sexual relationships. What started as an eloquent piece of literary fiction became an engrossing story with a central character I found myself warming to and entertained by in equal measure. Now, I am an avid reader, but truthfully not particularly ‘highbrow’ in my choices! As I commenced this book I did wonder if it would be for me, but I am delighted to confirm it most certainly was!
A dense and detailed account of our unnamed protagonist as she attempts to navigate through her husband’s public and now considered inappropriate affairs. Both working at the same upstate university she finds herself judged and having to defend their unconventional relationship. In her silence, she is condemned as being complicit and pressured to take a stand. Amidst all this arrives Vladimir – who we meet in the prologue, asleep and shackled to a chair, as our narrator looks upon him. Of course that whetted my appetite, but the writing, eloquent as I have mentioned, took a bit of getting used to, however I did find my flow and found the story entertaining, insightful, sad, moving and absorbing.
Exploring a range of themes, this woman feels her age, in her fifties she is critically aware of her physical decline, tied up with her appearance and how others perceive her, but also how she perceives herself, in relation to Vladimir as a sexual being. The issue of consent between adults versus the power dynamic between student and professor is fascinating and without giving anything away I was especially impressed with how this novel concluded.
This novel was brave in the themes it explored, but it was also unexpected, honest and at times farcical and I really, really liked it. Allow yourself the first 50 pages to ease into the writing and this story promises to delight!
Have you read this one? Tell me in the comments what you thought or share your views on my post over on Instagram, I’d love to chat with others about Vladimir.
About the Author
Julia May Jonas is a playwright and teaches theatre at Skidmore College. She holds an MA in playwriting from Columbia University and lives in Brooklyn with her family. Vladimir is her debut novel.