Ada Summary

  • Last updated on July 14, 2023
Title: Ada

Author: Vladimir Nabokov

Publication Date: 1969

Genre: Fiction, Historical Fiction, Literary Fiction

Page Length: Approximately 600 pages


Ada, a novel written by Vladimir Nabokov, was published in 1969. Displaying a multitude of themes, the narrative unfolds within a complex structure, intricately exploring the boundaries of reality and fiction. Set primarily in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Ada delves into a tale of forbidden love, family secrets, and the passing of time.

Section I: Sets the Stage
The story begins in 1872 with the birth of Van Veen, the protagonist, and Ada Veen, his cousin. They grow up on the magnificent Ardis Hall estate in the imaginary land of Antiterra, resembling pre-revolutionary Russia. Time is fluid as events jump between the past, present, and future, allowing readers to become intimately acquainted with the intricate web of connections between the characters.

Section II: A Forbidden Love
Van and Ada develop a deep and intimate relationship, battling societal norms and the genetic risks associated with their shared bloodline. Their forbidden love, described through intricate details and rich prose, teeters on the line between seduction, passion, and emotional turmoil.

Section III: The Dark Past Unveiled
Nabokov delves into the Veen family's dark history, marked by incestuous relationships and hidden desires. The protagonists become entangled in a captivating web of familial secrets, as they uncover an unpublished memoir written by Van's father, Dan Veen. The memoir reveals the true nature of Ada's parentage and the labyrinthine family dynamics, leaving the protagonists questioning their own identities.

Section IV: The Passage of Time
As the narrative progresses, time becomes ever more elusive. Ada and her sister Lucette lose their parents and are raised by Marina, their aunt, who becomes Van's mother after an accidental switch of nursemaids. Van and Ada separate and experience various relationships, marriages, and personal growth. The unfolding of their lives explores the themes of loss, regret, and the fleeting nature of happiness.

Section V: A Bittersweet Reunion
After many years apart, Ada and Van reconnect at Ardis Hall, which has transformed into a home for aging literary figures and artists. The reunion amplifes the feelings and memories buried within both characters, evoking nostalgia and reflecting on the transient nature of existence.

Themes Explored:
1. Forbidden Love: The novel delves deeply into the taboo nature of incestuous love, examining the societal and personal consequences of defying accepted norms.
2. Memory and Time: Nabokov skillfully explores the fluidity of time and the impact of memory on identity, weaving an intricate tapestry that showcases the power of recollection as an imperfect yet deeply personal force.
3. Family Secrets: The complex family dynamics in Ada expose how secrets can shape individuals, relationships, and the trajectory of entire lives.
4. Desire and Obsession: The characters' intense desires and obsessions drive much of the narrative, shedding light on the potentially destructive aspects of human nature when those desires become all-consuming.

Ada, a novel characterized by Nabokov's intricate writing style and multifaceted storytelling, offers a glimpse into the lives of Ada and Van as they navigate a world full of longing, love, and uncertainty. Through these characters and their interconnectedness, readers are prompted to contemplate the profound impact of one's choices, the power of memory, and the never-ending search for personal happiness in an ever-changing world.

Categories: Books