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Monday, 21 May 2018

Book Review: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

The story of the aging Humbert Humbert’s obsessive, devouring and doomed passion for the nymphet Dolores Haze, whom he lovingly thinks of as Lolita.


“I knew I had fallen in love with Lolita forever; but I also knew she would not be forever Lolita.” 

Probably one of the most difficult reviews to write, as reading Lolita had many ups and downs and conflicted feelings! However, I feel like I need to preface my review by saying that I was NOT having a good mental health week during the time that I read Lolita and I think that was probably the cause of a lot of my grievances. So, I’m sorry to use this tired cliché, Lolita, but it’s not you, it’s me.

When I started Lolita I had a very vague idea of what the storyline involved, so safe to say I was quite taken aback by the explicit content, especially when its pertaining to such a young girl, or as Humbert likes to call her, a “nymphet”. On that note, if I never hear of the word “nymphet” again for as long as I live, I’ll be more than happy. Saying that, Nabokov has a strange talent, the talent to be able to talk about such a disturbing topic so beautifully. His prose is simply incredible, and English is not even his first language – I was blown away by the writing.

However, and this is a huge HOWEVER, I really don’t think my brain was capable of handling such dense and wordy text. All week I had been suffering from a lack of concentration and not being able to focus, and this transferred to when I was reading Lolita. It would take me ages to get through one page, and so I become quite frustrated and impatient. I didn’t want to read about Humbert’s intricate descriptions of all the different hotels he was travelling around – I just did NOT care. And then when you combine this with his descriptions of Lolita… I was just emotionally and mentally exhausted!! In hindsight, I maybe should have put Lolita to the side and came back to it when I was more mentally capable of dealing with it.

I enjoyed the story though, as disturbing as it was. I don’t believe it glorifies paedophilia in any way, and I think that is evident by the ending we get. It’s clearly an incredible controversial topic and I won’t be rushing out to buy any more books that touch upon it! Although I think Nabokov does a great job of getting inside Humbert’s head – overall, I really believe Humbert as a character, he felt incredibly real to me. I just didn’t form any kind of attachment to Lolita herself, I found her to be quite selfish and petty – but again, she IS a child and she is going through some shit… As well as that, Humbert is quite the unreliable narrator so who even knows what Lolita was truly like. I just think in order for me to really enjoy a book I will usually need to form some sort of attachment to the characters and there’s literally no one in this book that I cared about.

I could seemingly ramble on and on about Lolita, but I’ll wrap it up by saying that I can appreciate how stunningly disturbing this book is (what a freaking crazy reading experience). Seriously, the writing is AMAZING. I just wish I could have enjoyed it more on a personal level. 2.5 stars from me!

Johann
x

1 comment :

  1. Lolita is one of my favourite books; I agree with you that the prose is beautiful, and find Humbert to be a charming (if disgusting) narrator. I've read it a couple times - the first time I was 16, and thought that Humbert actually did love Lo and his love was justified. Clearly he is a sociopathic pedophile; he is obsessed with her and possessive over her, and their relationship is awful. I can't say I liked Lo much either but I sympathised with her a lot. I've seen both movies too - the 60s Kubrick version and the 90s version.
    Briefly mention it in my 'top 15 favourite books' list on my blog:
    https://www.thezarinamachablog.co.uk/2017/06/top-15-favourite-books.html

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