This is a unique and complex novel. In attempting to simplify, I will likely only confuse. But it is my task, per my quest, so I shall try.At first I thought this was not a novel at all, but a poem. Upon completion, I realized that combined, the forward, the poem, and the commentary tell a story in a unique way, or metafiction. As such, it is indeed novel in the most literal sense. In fact, you could argue it is the only novel, or at least the most novel of any of the novels I have read.
I’d like to offer a recommendation on how to read Pale Fire. Read the poem first in entirety, it is written in four cantos. It is quite clever, and small passages make sense of a limited scene or impression, but you will probably not sense a single congruous tale. Next read the forward. Then read commentary that pertains to Canto One, and then reread Canto One. Do the same for Canto Two, Three and Four, and then reread the entire poem.