Adding to this compilation of 40 reviews seems superfluous, and yet I love Nabokov's "Ada" far too much not to recommend it to any who may not yet have read it.
Nabokov actually provides a review of his own in the book's final paragraphs: "Ardis Hall -- the Ardors and Arbors of Ardis -- this is the leitmotiv rippling through "Ada", an ample and delightful chronicle, whose principal part is staged in a dream-bright America -- for are not our childhood memories comparable to Vineland-borne caravelles, indolently encircled by the white birds of dreams?
"Not the least adornment of the chronicle is the delicacy of pictorial detail: a latticed gallery; a painted ceiling; a pretty plaything stranded among the forget-me-nots of a brook; butterflies and butterfly orchids in the margin of the romance; a misty view descried from marble steps; a doe in gaze in the ancestral parks; and much, much more."
It's a wonder how powerfully "Ada" connects with readers, since Nabokov seemingly makes no concessions to them and anchors the book so strongly in the unique attributes of his own biography. Drawing heavily on English, Russian and French and employing a complexity of exposition, Nabokov frustrates efforts for a quick or casual reading. Yet his art serves to create a psychological displacement and opens a doorway through which the reader can explore the texture, the sadness and joys of remembrance. This is the point I would stress, since the book's characters and plot are nicely summarized in other reviews you'll find here.
Memories. I recall a first, startling encounter with eight improbable chapters of "Ada" (the night of the Burning Barn!) in the April, 1969 issue of Playboy magazine. Over 35 years, I've enjoyed perhaps six re-readings of the book, with each reading uncovering new depths of the chronicle and each leaving memories of its own. This month, I took "Ada" with me on a business trip to Shanghai. The physical and temporal displacement of the trans-Pacific flight complemented the book's style perfectly. I read the book, literally, from a new place. And that Sunday found me at ease in the midst of my bustling Shanghai hotel's brunch -- sipping champagne and slowly, very slowly, working my way through the book's now familiar prose. In that antiterra, Van Veen may have joined me for a bit.
You'll have guessed this is a favorite book. I particularly recommend to you the Vintage addition of "Ada" with its helpful notes and because it is also the basis for the references in Brian Boyd's "Nabokov's Ada" -- should you eventually wish to compare your reading with that of someone who has studied it deeply.
Please buy and read Nabokov's "Ada" for the memories -- and much, much more