Review: Vladimir by Julia May Jonas

I have seen a lot of reviews and mentions of this book that speak of not judging this book by the cover, not choosing it for BOTM because of the cover, etc. Perhaps I’m an outlier, but I requested an ARC 90% based on the cover and 10% based on the description. I still love the cover, and I’m happy to report I loved the book, too.

What it’s about

From the Goodreads blurb:

“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.

My thoughts

Vladimir is a striking debut novel—it’s so polished and brave. I really enjoyed the accessible-but-smart writing style, the way the #MeToo story is presented from an entirely different angle, and the dark humor and palpable tension throughout the novel. I especially loved living inside the mind of our unnamed narrator.

A 58-year-old popular professor at a small college finds herself in the uncomfortable position of being married to a fellow professor accused of preying on students. She has a somewhat unconventional relationship with her husband, and doesn’t have the reaction one would expect to the scandal, but is instead quickly infatuated with a sexy younger writer who arrives on the scene. She’s intelligent, witty, passionate, insecure and gloriously flawed, and the first-person narrative that is Vladimir allows the reader to experience all of her thoughts, obsessions, and impulses in the most delightfully disturbing way. There were moments I loved her and moments I absolutely despised her. There were moments I felt I could really relate to her (!!). There were times I had to suspend disbelief just a little, but from the first page, I was hooked and enjoyed every minute of my time with this book.

Vladimir was much more literary fiction than I was expecting, and that’s a great thing. Truly an exploration of self-esteem, identity, sexuality, aging, parenthood, and relationships. It’s clever, fresh, and bold, and I was not at all expecting the turns it took towards the end. I’m looking forward to reading more from Jonas in the future.

Also, I don’t care what you think of me, that cover is sexy.

Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for my copy in exchange for this honest review.


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