I’m really not sure how to review this book, honestly I don’t even know what I just read. A popular English teacher, who we never actually get the name of, is struggling to deal with her choices in life, aging, and the investigation into her husband’s inappropriate relationships with former students. When new profession Vladimir shows up at the college, our narrator becomes obsessed with him and his wife, though it’s really Vladimir she craves.
Let me first say that the cover art for this book is horrible. A picture of a shirtless man tends to lead readers to think this is some mass marketed romance, and it’s not that at all. This is a character study and an exploration of sex and relationships from the eyes of a women in her late 50s. It’s heavily literary in nature and would never even be remotely consisted a romance.
Past that however, three stars is the highest rating I could even attempt to give this book. The first 1/3 of the book had me so bored, I was legit fighting sleep and almost decided to DNF. The middle of the story made me feel gross and left me with nothing but disgust and annoyance for our narrator. The last 1/3 of the book seemed to actually get some sort of plot but it felt so outlandish, that I just couldn’t with it. Though I did need to see what happened, so at least it pulled me in there, and the whole reason this didn’t end up as a 2 star review.
Our narrator is completely unlikable, which I don’t need to like our main character, but she’s just awful. She’s intelligent, and according to her generally is one of the favored professors, but being inside her head was not fun. She’s obsession about her age, her weight, her looks, and eventually Vladimir. Her rational is questionable, and she is unsympathetic in her view of the world. I guess all that is fine, since this seems to be a story about a middle aged women coming to terms with her aging, but she just comes off as whiny to me. I haven’t been so glad to be done with a character in a long time.
I honestly, still have no idea how I feel about this story. It’s written well but I didn’t find it funny or really that entertaining as other reviews are finding it. I dislike the lack of dialogue, pretty much every single character in this story is easy to dislike, and for under 300 pages this book feels long. Jonas does try to tackle some hard topics, but there is no central plot which left me apathic and let down.
If you enjoy character studies, excessive monologues, and don’t need an actual plot then you might like this book. You may also enjoy this one if you’re looking to take a deep dive into the challenges academia is facing during the ‘me too’ movement, though it’s more an exploration of sexual morality in general. It does make you think and as I said earlier, it made me slightly uncomfortable, which any writer that can evoke such strong emotions has some talent. So maybe that’s why it’s getting such rave reviews.
Vladimir comes out February 1, 2022! Huge thank you to Avid Reader Press and Simon & Schuster for my advanced copy in exchange for my honest opinion. If you liked this review please let me know either by commenting below or by visiting my instagram @speakingof_books.