‘Lolita’ by Vladimir Nabokov – Book Review

Blurb from Goodreads

Humbert Humbert – scholar, aesthete and romantic – has fallen completely and utterly in love with Lolita Haze, his landlady’s gum-snapping, silky skinned twelve-year-old daughter. Reluctantly agreeing to marry Mrs Haze just to be close to Lolita, Humbert suffers greatly in the pursuit of romance; but when Lo herself starts looking for attention elsewhere, he will carry her off on a desperate cross-country misadventure, all in the name of Love.

Hilarious, flamboyant, heart-breaking and full of ingenious word play, Lolita is an immaculate, unforgettable masterpiece of obsession, delusion and lust. 

My Review

Lolita is one of those books that is frequently seen on ‘must read classics’ lists. So me being me I decided that I had to read it for myself so that I could understand why a book about the most disturbing of things, paedophilia, is so eulogised.

And I am truly baffled.

Yes. Okay, initially this book has incredibly beautiful prose. It has sort of a saccharine charm to it. Take this passage for instance:

“Lolita, light of my life, fire of my loins. My sin, my soul. Lo-lee-ta: the tip of the tongue taking a trip of three steps down the palate to tap, at three, on the teeth. Lo. Lee. Ta.

She was Lo, plain Lo, in the morning, standing four feet ten in one sock. She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.

Did she have a precursor? She did, indeed she did.

In point of fact, there might have been no Lolita at all had I not loved, one summer, an initial girl-child. In a princedom by the sea.

Oh when? About as many years before Lolita was born as my age was that summer. You can always count on a murderer for a fancy prose style.

Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, exhibit number one is what the seraphs, the misinformed, simple, noble-winged seraphs, envied. Look at this tangle of thorns.”

It’s quite seductively written isn’t it. Almost mesmerising. And this is what the book aims to do, it aims to tempt the reader into understanding the debauched psyche of Humbert Humbert. It tries to portray this most unreliable of narrators as a sympathetic character. It tries to con the reader into believing the veracity of his story…

And very early on I was tempted…

But I soon grew tired of this lecherous style of prose. It grew irksome. And I needed this book to be over with.

And you know what… I got so freaking tired of victim blaming Lolita. Characterising her as a temptress. A nymphet. A girl with all the power. A girl so alluring that a grown man would fall head over heels in love with her…

Lolita was a child.

A CHILD.

There is nothing sexual about a child. They do not lead adults on.

So yeah, maybe you can argue that I don’t have the stomach for this. That I don’t like being made to feel uncomfortable and provoked by my reads.

But I would have to respectfully disagree with you. Because even if you set aside the paedophilic aspect of this book then I don’t think the quality of the writing even stands up to what I would term literary merit. It is what ultimately left me feeling so cold towards this book and not the uncomfortable subject matter. In my opinion just because a book provokes an uncomfortable reaction does not automatically make it worthy of praise.

But also screw it because this is a book that attempts to create a sympathetic narrative for a paedophile and I am not here for that. There’s enough crap in the real world with sexism, racism, xenophobia and homophobia etc. rife in our day to day lives that I don’t need to support this type of book that nigh on glamorises paedophilia.

One star

If you want to read a book that properly explores the world of child grooming and is a much more interesting character study of those involved then I would highly recommend My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell.

16 thoughts on “‘Lolita’ by Vladimir Nabokov – Book Review

  1. So I have never heard of this and I am glad for that! As someone who has a daughter, I can’t read anything like this or what happens in the news because it just makes me so sick.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh this definitely isn’t a book for you at all then Joanna. I read it out of curiosity but nah… Didn’t like it. Found it reinforced negative stereotypes and fed into the problematic societal storyline of nymphet teen girls. And I’m not okay with that at all

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Seriously, if you sexualize a young girl then you are just sick. It’s as simple as that. If someone ever did anything like this to my daughter I’d for sure be in jail. I also think the problem has become more apparent now a days where as when I was a child it was unheard of and now it is happening constantly.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Exactly!!! And while people may try to talk about how provoking this book is and the style of the writing etc I just want to be like no. We don’t need books like this from the paedophilic viewpoint!!! It just feeds into a cycle of negativity and makes it okay to sexualise children and nope… I refuse to support that. So I’m with you 100% Joanna

          Liked by 1 person

  2. I found the writing style hard to wade through at times, and the subject matter is of course horrendous but I did think the reader was meant to see through HH’s attempts at justification. While HH is victim blaming Lolita, I don’t think Nabakov himself was and the flowery language was a device on the narrator’s part to try to seem convincing. It’s a difficult one and really interesting to hear how different readers respond to it. Great review 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Argh, I’m so torn about wanting to give this book a try because “it’s a classic” but then also not reading it because I’m probably going to feel incredibly sick to my stomach. I think I’ll give it a try simply because I have the book sitting on my shelf (for too long). I’d be very interested in reading the story about the “real lolita” though! Great review as always, Emer 💜

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh I would definitely say read it because there’s nothing better than deciding for yourself if a novel is indeed worthy of classic status and belongs in the pantheon of the greats. But yeah.. It is rather distasteful and hard to look past that

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  4. Yeah… NOPE. No matter how technically ‘well written’ a book is I could never get behind subject matter like this. I’m glad you’re speaking up and sharing your honest view (as always 😉). Great review Emer! Jen

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Aw thank you Amanda. I can’t say that I recommend this book all that much so that is probably wise of you. I’m just one of those people that has to read those classics (especially ones written by old assed men) so I can write ranty reviews about them lol 😂😂😂

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  5. Yeah.. that’s my fear about reading Lolita. I’d love to give it a try, especially because (as you said) it’s featured in numerous “must-read” lists. But I can already feel that I won’t love it and maybe won’t be able to finish it..

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a difficult read for sure and honestly I don’t get why it’s so praised. The prose left me so cold and I’m just not hear for victim blaming a child and persisting with this incredibly problematic idea of the sexualised school girl that men lust over.

      Liked by 1 person

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