I don't claim to be a "Nabokovian" (although I wrote my PhD thesis on him), but I've read most of his novels and tried to keep up with the scholarship. I found Pitzer's book a workmanlike piece of writing that was at times informative and interesting, but too often annoying and superficial.
I applaud the author's scholarship and detective work, which was put to excellent use in placing the books in their historical and literary contexts. Less convincing were the strenuous efforts to reveal any sort of "secret history," which struck me more as a clever marketing device than anything else. What Pitzer has unearthed from the texts are the basic real-world materials that all authors use to provide the simulacra of reality in their fictions ("write what you know"). Nabokov didn't "bury" these things; he used them as foundations for the elaborate invented worlds he is so celebrated for. Pitzer strives to make all this important, but if Nabokov thought it was important, why didn't he make it more visible? Moreover, Nabokov was famously dismissive of fiction rooted in sociology, history and biography, and many of his novels contain parodies of these forms. For those enjoying a happy lifelong obsession with an author, it's always interesting to see how his life and times manage to work themselves into the warp and woof of his art, but to find some sort of deliberate intent by Nabokov to hide important themes that only dedicated literary detectives can unearth is not (to use a charitable word) credible. Much has been made of Nabokov's love of games, but this one is a game too far. What's next--acrostics?
Those familiar with Nabokov's biography will know everything there is to know about his relationship with Solzhenitsyn and their famous nonmeeting. I found myself paging quickly though the parts covering Solzhenitsyn because they seemed to add very little to the overall thesis of the book, and the treatment of the meeting that never happened struck me as a clumsy stunt. Much more intriguing was Nabokov's fractured friendship with Edmund Wilson, and I wished that Pitzer had covered this more thoroughly.
Nabokov's life was one of the most fascinating of the twentieth century, not only because he was such a complex mix of genius and lucky, but because it bestrode such a wide swath of history. Nabokov rode the tiger, and not only lived to tell about it, but tell it brilliantly in highly refined stories that deal not with who did what to whom but with human nature and the nature of reality.
In her book, Pitzer makes an attempt at giving us a clearer sense of this, but unfortunately gets knocked off track with her "hidden history" conceit and Solzhenitsyn excursions. Somebody will eventually do it, and then it will be made into a movie, and Nabokov will suddenly be famous all over again.