The unnamed 58-year-old narrator and her husband John have been teaching in the English department of a small college for years. From the start, they have found a relaxed way in their relationship, not asking too many questions, but being good partners and caring for their daughter. Now, however, a group of former students accuses John of having abused his power to lure them into affairs. At the same time, a new couple shows up at the college, Vladimir and his wife, both charismatic writers who both fascinate equally. The narrator immediately falls for Vladimir, even more after having read his novel, a feeling she hasn’t known for years and all this in the most complicated situation of her marriage.
Admittedly, I was first drawn to the book because of the cover that was used for another novel I read last year and liked a lot. It would have been a pity to overlook Julia May Jonas’ debut “Vladimir” which brilliantly captures the emotional rollercoaster of a woman who – despite her professional success and being highly esteemed – finds herself in exceptional circumstances and has to reassess her life.
Jonas’ novel really captures the zeitgeist of campus life and the big questions of where men and women actually stand – professionally as well as in their relationship. Even though the narrator has an equal job to her husband, she, after decades of teaching, is still only considered “his wife” and not an independent academic. That she, too, is highly affected in her profession by the allegations against her husband is simply a shame, but I fear that this is just how it would be in real life.
They had an agreement on how their relationship should look like, but now, she has to ask herself is this wasn’t one-sided. She actually had taken the classic role of wife and mother, caring much more for their daughter while he was pursuing his affairs. They had an intellectual bond which was stronger than the bodily but this raises questions in her now. Especially when she becomes aware of what creative potential her longing for Vladimir trigger in her.
A novel which provides a lot of food for thought, especially in the middle section when the narrator is confronted with professional consequences due to her husband’s misbehaviour. The author excellently captures the narrator’s oscillating thoughts and emotions making the novel a great read I’d strongly recommend.