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**All reviews will have spoilers so DON’T read on if you want to remain ignorant**
This is my first review and it just so happens to be about a controversial book.
Author: Vladimir Nabokov (1899-1977)
My rating: 4/5
Plot: (Source: Amazon)
(Quote from chapter 1) “Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of my tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.”
Humbert Humbert is a middle-aged, frustrated college professor. In love with his landlady’s twelve-year-old daughter Lolita, he’ll do anything to possess her. Unable and unwilling to stop himself, he is prepared to commit any crime to get what he wants.
And this is all true! The book begins with her name and ends with her name. But it wasn’t only the odd relationship between the two that made this book a huge success. It was actually Nabokov’s characterisation of Humbert Humbert that has made it stand out as a great literary novel.
Before reading Lolita I knew a few people who had read it and they told me how strange the book is because it’s ability to make you almost ( I say ‘almost’) forget that Humbert is sexualising a 12 year old girl and, although he is exasperated at times at his young lover, it really isn’t her fault.
I’m serious! It’s shocking how somewhere down the line you forget that he’s ancient in comparison to her and is taking advantage of the situation. He is a professor, a scholar of some kind, thus, his language and diction are what make him incredibly persuasive. Below is literally how my mind was working whilst reading the book:
Beginning: This man is an expert! He’s gone by observing small girls in playgrounds without being noticed. The dirty old dog!
Middle: Wow! Lolita is really annoying and spoilt. Humbert is always trying hard to make her happy, but she never appreciates it (Hold it! Did I just sympathies with the pervert?!)
End: It looks like you really did give her your heart Hummy, and, even though it was wrapped, twas perhaps love.
Conclusion: Humbert. H, you’re still one twisted old goat!
Well, Nabokov had two main aims for this novel: (a) To show the power of language and how it can sway people into accepting something. (b) Which leads onto the crucial point of why we are able to be persuaded: Humbert.H sounds rational. His scholarly knowledge, self-criticism, calm and meticulous nature are all difficult to connect to people we call pedophiles.
The pages about the 2 years H.H and Lolita spend together in secret make you wonder what he sees in her apart from her ‘nymphet beauty’! She’s just a loud, brash, ungrateful girl who has a sugar daddy (excuse the pun) and knows how to milk him!
The book is split up into two parts. Part I described Humbert’s life from birth, to his studies, to his first marriage, to the failure of that marriage, to how he finds lodgings in Charlotte Haze’s house and meets her daughter Lolita, to falling in love with Lolita and how he tries to slyly grope her here and there, to how he accepts Charlotte’s marriage proposal (only so he can be closer to Lolita), then how Charlotte reads his diary of some sort and finds out the truth, then her accidental death by a car accident, then Humbert’s happiness at knowing that as Lolita’s guardian he can do what he likes with her, then how after some persuasion and more groping, Lolita accepts and they both set out on a wild and endless road trip around and across USA to have fun and never get caught.
Part II picks ups from wene they leave their house behind and set off on their trip in secret. From then on, I must say, was the most excruciatingly difficult part to read: it was quite boring! Humbert’s obsession with Lolita is evident in how he speaks of everything to do with her in detail. It was a real trial trying to pay attention to half of his ramblings.
The interesting part comes once again when Humbert realises they are being followed and then Lolita runs away. Basically, it’s where more action picked up and less rambling. But again, the rambling isn’t a fault I am pointing out on Nabokov’s part; indeed it was a conscious decision to make Humbert detail his 2 years with Lolita, so that we can see the extent to which he is ‘in love’ with her and to make us question if Humbert Humbert was ever really sane.
But one thing I do wish Nabokov missed out, was the whole detective thing. It annoyed me to find out that after all that chasing around and finally getting Lolita out of Humbert’s sweaty grasp, this detective lover turns out to be some ‘high’ idiot who lets her go, making Lolita wander and end up with someone else anyway. When Humbert, revolver in pocket, meets Lolita’s husband, Dick, for the first and last time, I actually praised the girl; she finally made a good choice to stick with a good man (notice how I say she chose to be with Humbert when in reality she was manipulated!) and was finally in safe hands.
In the end, after Humbert loses Lolita, he repeats how he sincerely loved her and will continue to do so, but that doesn’t mean we are meant to accept his words; Nabokov has left it to us to think ‘is it love?’ ‘what is ever love, or merely passion and obsession’?