Details: (c) 1962 Vera Nabokov & Dimitri Nabokov; pub Vintage International 1989; ISBN 0-679-72342-0
Verdict: Pale Fire is very weird indeed, and probably too clever for me.
Reasons for reading it: lethargic_man has been recommending it to me for absolutely ages but I've never happened to find a copy until this trip.
How it came into my hands: The Strand bookshop
I really don't know what to make of Pale Fire. Although it is a classic, I had no idea what it was going to be about when I started reading it, so I initially took it at face value when it claimed it was a commentary on a (fictional) poem. Thus I spent about the first third of the book being entirely confused by being unable to see any obvious connection between the "commentary" and the poem. Once I had figured out that it wasn't supposed to be an actual commentary, I still couldn't entirely work out what was supposed to be going on.
I like the way that both Kinbote and Shade are characterized, especially the contrasts between how the reader perceives the two men and how Kinbote perceives both himself and Shade. The adventures of the exiled Zemblan king seemed mostly silly but enjoyable enough on a story level to keep me reading. PF also made me laugh rather a lot too, which is perhaps surprising in such a heavy-weight literary novel.
The trouble is, I had the feeling all along that I was missing something. I worked out the twist very early on, and I suspect it was meant to be obvious. But it didn't work as a thriller in that way, and the very strange structure rather got in the way of the story. I'm not at all sure you're supposed to read it as a story, though! Well, it's certainly not like anything else I've ever read, that's for sure.
Oh, and lethargic_man, I did find the jewels and I understand your .sig now.