King, Queen, Knave
Franz has come to Berlin for a job. His mother's wealthy cousin (Dreyer) has kindly agreed to take him on in his department store. What neither Dreyer nor Franz has considered is that Mrs. Martha Dreyer would also kindly consent to take him on as her lover. It takes a little planning on her part, but finally the shy, lanky Franz becomes her secret lover, her ticket to a world without Dreyer.
King, Queen, Knave is a typical triangle love story. And yet, it's not. Nabokov, even in this early novel, has an excellent feel for human beings, what makes them do what they do and just how much they can stand. Franz and Martha's relationship moves from the sublime to the detestable for Franz, while he becomes a lifeline to Martha. Dreyer, seeing good in all the world, is easily duped--though easily duping Martha on the side.
As with Lolita, the plot is not all that great, and I can't truly say I "enjoyed" the book. But nonetheless, I couldn't stop reading it. I had to continue watching the dynamics change between the King, the Queen and the Knave and see just how the hand was played out.
(Originally read and reviewed in 2004.)