The book was instantly called a masterpiece by the literary world.  In 2011, Time Magazine listed the book among the 100 All-TIME non-fiction books indicating that its "impressionist approach deepens the sense of memories relived through prose that is gorgeous, rich and full".  Joseph Epstein lists Nabokov’s book among the few truly great autobiographies.  While he opines that it is odd that so great a writer as Nabokov has not been able to generate passion in his readers for his own greatest passion, chess and butterflies, he finds that the autobiography succeeds "at making a reasonable pass at understanding that greatest of all conundrums, its author’s own life".  Jonathan Yardley writes that the book is witty, funny and wise, "at heart it is … deeply humane and even old-fashioned", with an "astonishing prose".  He indicates that while any autobiography is "inherently an act of immodesty", the real subject is the development of the inner and outer self, an act that can plunge the subject into “the abyss of self”.  Richard Gilbert who finds the long genealogical histories tedious notes that Nabokov apparently bullied his younger brother and "doesn’t pretend guilt, he does not feel", nor is he asking for sympathy when his idyllic world is crushed by the Russian revolution.