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Vladimir by Julia May Jonas
Literary fiction



We love supporting debut authors. Congrats, Julia May Jonas, on your first book!

by Julia May Jonas

Quick take

This darkly humorous exploration of gender and power follows a cantankerous female professor in the midst of a scandal.

Good to know

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Cerebral


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Unreliable

    Unreliable narrator

  • Illustrated icon, Icon_SalaciousPeach


  • Illustrated icon, Icon_Snarky



"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 tinderbox 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.

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Free sample

Get an early look from the first pages of Vladimir.

Why I love it

As I read Julia May Jonas’s Vladimir, I thought, this is the novel I am always looking for. Dark east coast academia? Yep. Teachers with God complexes and secrets? Of course. Women over fifty in rabid lust? Yes, please. A world in which everyone is both a victim and a perpetrator? Check, check. These are hooks, undeniably sexy, but many novels check those boxes and fall apart. The most extraordinary accomplishment of this book is the voice that Jonas has found for the long-suffering, seemingly morally upright wife of the lecherous man. In the canon of unreliable narrators (think Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day) our unnamed middle-aged female professor ranks with the greats. She’s armed in self-delusion and on the verge of becoming unhinged.

A true mark of any novel’s worth is whether there’s lasting impact—it’s been months and I’m still reeling from the ending. We’re inundated with stories of #MeToo reckonings, and while that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it can often be a broad thing. Vladimir takes a familiar story of sexual assault and victimhood but muddies it up. (It’s no accident that the book has echoes of Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita.) Jonas’s characters give this conversation about consent and sex and power all the nuance, complexity, and complicity that these situations take on in real life and she leaves those tensions messy. Which is the way I—and doubtless myriad other readers—prefer it.

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Member ratings (11,649)

  • Jennifer H.

    Winston Salem, NC

    This book was just full of surprises, especially at the end. I don’t think it’s like any other book I’ve ever read, but it’s captivating and I really enjoyed it. I definitely recommend reading it!

  • Juliana M.

    New York, NY

    Terrible cover aside, it’s an interesting examination on what it is to be a white feminist of a certain age in academia. Cringeworthy at times but well developed all around. Didn’t see the end coming.

  • Andrea H.

    Chicago, IL

    not at all the steamy romance I was promised—SO much more! insightful and provocative, feminist and nuanced with a unique perspective (&tbh it feels sexist that it was labeled “unreliable narrator”)

  • Beth W.

    Mooresville, NC

    I thoroughly enjoyed Jonas’ writing style. I loved seeing the world through a complicated, aging woman who was both likable and unlikable. An entertaining story of the internal life vs. the external.

  • Megan Z.

    Chicago, IL

    I’m reeling from this book. The writing is sharp and precise and fits the narrator. Her vanity had me analyzing the layers of the story to tell what was happening. It’s messy, unhinged, delightful.