There was, however, a fully formed novel in mind, and that is readily apparent even if the eventual structure isn’t clear. The central plot concerns Flora, a young, defiant, and rather unambitious woman who’s orphaned the day she graduates college. She marries an obese and ugly man twice her age who also happens to be both famous and wealthy. Flora cheats, often and shamelessly, and one of these jilted lovers goes on to write a novel titled My Laura. Her husband reads it and, in chapters that are written from his point of view, reflects on his relationship with Flora. But he spends more time discussing his plans and gradual attempt to delete himself from this world; he seeks, in his own words, dissolution. According to Dmitri, some of his thoughts on old age and the accompanying ailments mirror Nabokov’s, lending the sections a heartbreaking sense of despondency.
Fans of Nabokov will find plenty to revel in, especially the clever wordplay and circuitous, multi-leveled plot. One can’t help but smile when a character named Hubert H. Hubert appears, and even the obvious transformation from Flora to “ofLaura” has its charm. And there are plenty of phrases and sentences that are very nearly perfect, even in their initial versions. But this is not in any way an actual unfinished novel, and to treat it as one is horribly unfair to the author who wanted it eviscerated upon his death. Instead, treat it as what it is: a pleasantly confusing, yet wonderfully entertaining glimpse into the working mind of one of the greatest writers of the last century.