January 26, 2022
Dear Mr. Hemingway,
There is nothing more thrilling to me than reading a debut novel. Because I have no preconceived notions or backlist titles to compare it to, I have the opportunity to absorb the writing while getting to know the writer one page at a time. With that said, I just finished Julia May Jonas’ debut novel, Vladimir, and I can honestly say that I was dazzled by her beautiful words.
The narrator of Vladimir is a female literature professor in her mid-50s. Her husband John, a professor at the same small liberal college in upstate New York is facing allegations from former students of sexual misconduct. His relationship with other women has never been an issue within their marriage because they have a mutually agreed upon “open-marriage” and dating students wasn’t as controversial back in the day compared to present times. As the atmosphere at the college becomes polluted with these affairs, the narrator develops her own fascination with a younger professor named Vladimir that leads her into uncharted territory.
Here is the scoop on Vladimir. Jonas’ book is not a fast-paced, edge-of-your-seat kind of read. It is a multi-layered character-driven tale. I absolutely love books with a huge emphasis on character study. Getting a sneak peek into the nitty-gritty crevices of a character’s mind is totally my cup of tea. Being inside this narrator’s brain was like being lost in the woods somewhere. Her constant search for validation was like foraging for berries in a snow storm. I was lured into her unconventional marriage and was surprisingly intrigued by this couples’ perpetual need for external approval to feel fulfilled. The dynamics between the narrator and her husband were compulsive and faultlessly showcased the dysfunction they both endured on a regular basis. Jonas’ story felt heavy at times and even a bit melancholy, but it connected me to the internal turmoil experienced by the characters. So many times throughout the book I thought I figured out what made this narrator tick, but I was pleasantly surprised by her hidden darkness and eager to see where it would lead her. My thoughts on her younger colleague Vladimir remain complicated and his presence in this story no doubt plays an interesting role in the narrator’s development. I was curious to find out how this story would end and was satisfied with the conclusion.
Jonas’ writing is superbly edgy. I was fascinated by how fragile the human spirit can sometimes be and what makes a moral compass waver. The academic backdrop for this story was wonderfully brainy with a literary flair. Her book worked for me because it opened the door to intimate conversations and analyses that I love to engage in. Her characters prompted me to think outside the box and examine more closely the idea of “perfect love”, motherhood, unconventional marriages, and the daunting quest for approval. Let’s not forget the complexities of the #metoo movement and the internal and external power struggles that exist.
I gobbled up Jonas’ lyrical prose and stimulating story and look forward to more of her writing.
Until next time.
Your Biggest Fan,
P.S. If you are looking for more books with academic vibes, CLICK HERE
***I received an advance reader copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review. My opinions are 100% my own. If I don’t like it…I don’t share it!