Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov (1959)
Blurb: Humbert Humbert is a middle-aged, fastidious college professor. He also liked little girls. And non more so that Lolita, whom he’ll do anything to possess. Is he in love or insane? A silver tongued poet or a pervert? A tortured soul or a monster? … or is he all of these?
There are two things I would like to point out before I start my review of this novel .
1. I am completing one of my book resolutions of this year by finally getting around to reading this novel. (X)
2. This is a really hard book to write about.
I actually ended up getting this book out of my semi local library (the big one in town, there is a smaller one closer to me) as I for some reason keep putting it in my amazon cart and never end up getting it. So I made the executive decision to pick it up at the library which actually made me read it as well as I obviously had to give it back. As it so happens I managed to find a copy of the cover I wanted in a new (well knew for me) charity shop two days later. So I finished the library copy and also have my own as I will definitely be reading it again in the future (my copy is in the picture).
This book is definitely a controversial read, and is met with mixed opinions, I am always a bit of a sucker for a controversial classic I enjoy reading them. However before I get into my opinion I want to have a little bit of a rant. I was reading this novel on the train on the way to seeing my friend on the other side of London and I was happily minding my own business until I looked up to see what the next stop was when I realised the lady, with three girls on the set of 4 seats opposite me was giving me a strange look. I didn’t think much of it and went back to my books until I realised she was staring at the book. Now there was nothing offensive about the cover of the books it was the Penguin Modern Classics edition. It doesn’t have a massive sign saying this book is about a pedophile, pervert and all round child molester, but somehow I offended her. This in turn made me rather annoyed as I was minding my own business, I was not in any way damaging the minds of these children they couldn’t have cared less, and this upset me as it is a personal choice I made to read this book and I shouldn’t be judged for doing so in private or in public. Okay rant over.
I love the way Nabokov writes it’s so beautifully written, I am tempted to read more of his work to read more if his wonderfully poetic prose, it’s so compelling and seductive. It sucks you right in, making you feel compassion for Humbert, completely fooling you to his aims and objectives. I was reading some reviews and Tatiana on Goodreads describes it as deceptive compassion (or something along those lines, I am writing this review from notes I made) and Wikipedia pointed out that the narrator is obviously unreliable as the story is from his point of view (how different would it be from Lolita’s POV). You play right into his self delusions, almost feeling for his plight. Lolita’s character is one I love maybe manipulative and spoilt, but underneath that exterior is obviously a lonely and insecure young girl who really only wants to be loved.
You are not aware from where this story is being written from, jail ? He mentions “the ladies and gentlemen of the jury” on a number of occasions and we know from the fictional foreword that both characters die shortly after the completion of the “manuscript” of the novel. The first part of the novel (it is divided into two) is much more coherent than the second, perhaps to signify the effect Lolita has on Humbert or that deterioration of the protagonist ? Maybe I am reading two much into it, but there as decidedly more frantic pace about the events in the second half of the novel as the first half builds to the possession of Lolita and the second is the anti-climax after that (the comedown if you will). I really did not mean to make sexual metaphors there but you get my point.
In the end the main thing that sold this novel to me it Nabokov’s writing style there is something to sensually captivating about it I can’t really explain it you have to experience it for yourself. The plot of the novel was also really interesting to me, I mean I don’t tend to go for books about men having relations with small girls but I as a ex-literature student the classic status of this book was always going to intrigue me. I will always like the modern classic novels, and I do no regret liking and reading this novel. If you want to read a modern classic I would recommend this to you, if for nothing else read it for the writing itself, and I rarely say that about a novel at all.
P.S … I am going to watch the 1997 movie as well, may do review.