Review of “Lolita” by Vladimir Nabokov

I finished reading Lolita a few days ago and had the urge to review it, so here you go.

Lolita, published in 1955, is author Vladimir Nabokov’s most well-known work, considered a classic by many. His narrator is child molester and murderer Humbert Humbert writing a memoir as evidence to the jury as he sits in jail. Humbert has a particular fondness for a certain type of young girl he calls a “nymphet”, characterized as being between the ages of 9 and 14 and possessing fey-like grace and slender limbs, among various other qualities. He attributes this preference to the physically unfulfilled love he shared with a girl of his own age, Annabel, one summer when he was young.

Twenty-some years after his tryst with Annabel, Humbert, now in his early 40s, finds himself boarding in a New England home with widow Charlotte Haze and her 12-year-old daughter, Dolores. The “memoir” details his love for Dolores Haze, whom he calls Lolita and with whom he becomes sexually involved after becoming her stepfather.

While Humbert engages in socially deplorable activities, his status as an antihero offers an unexpected perspective. I found myself supporting him and hoping he would have his wishes fulfilled, even going so far as getting angry at Lolita in her attempts at deceit. As the protagonist, many of his actions seem understandable, although he himself often expresses disdain toward them. He most certainly knows that what he is doing is wrong–at one point he expresses deep concern about robbing any young girl of her innocence and purity–but he also seems to justify it through his love for Lolita. To me, this seems like an exaggeration of the saying that “all is fair in love and war.” This is most definitely a love story, however twisted.

Additionally, Humbert is no common criminal. He is a highly educated Frenchman whose sophisticated prose style and interspersion of French throughout the “memoir” only serve to heighten opinion of him, highlighting the reader’s dilemma (or at least my own) over how to feel about his character, supporting him while cringing in disgust.

The language did get dense at parts and I was unable to understand all of the French, but it made no difference in my enjoyment of the novel. I found the pace to be slow-moving, but the controversial story and the eloquence with which it was told counteracted this for me. Furthermore, since we know from the start that Humbert has been arrested, my curiosity about what makes his world fall apart kept me pushing through to the end. And let me just say, it is an end worth getting to. Some details of the novel’s resolution are predictable, but much of it is just as thought-provoking, if not more so, as the rest of the novel.

If you are looking for an adult fiction novel that you will not only enjoy but that will get you thinking critically, I highly recommend Lolita.

12 thoughts on “Review of “Lolita” by Vladimir Nabokov

  1. “highlighting the reader’s dilemma (or at least my own) over how to feel about his character, supporting him while cringing in disgust.” – I felt exactly the same way!

    I found myself at times feeling sorry for him and even getting annoyed at Lolita and her games, which then made me feel as if I was “rooting for the bad guy” because of the stereotype of “perverted old man” vs “innocent young girl”. But I feel they carried both characters equally. As much as it’s a touchy subject, I think it was extremely well-written. πŸ™‚

  2. Hahaha. I like your crap smilies. XD literally crap…hehe sorry I’m in a silly mood right now.

    Wow. That is awful! I hate that dude. I hate thinking about sexual predators.
    hehe. I love the idea. I meant to post this before the last one but I forgot about it.

    I just have to get my money issues together before I do anything. πŸ˜› At least I have a few years before this happens. πŸ˜€

  3. Wow, Rachel! Your review completely captured my own feelings/response to the book. I had believed my thoughts to be unique and somewhat shameful, especially having enjoyed it so much. My mother read it and despite the unreliable narration still wasn’t able to look past Humbert Humbert’s wrong acts. I thought that perhaps, no matter how persuasive the narrator, the subject matter is something like this then it probably proves to be a lot more difficult for parents.

    Great review for such a fantastic piece of literature. :love:

  4. It took me a while to finish the ebook of Lolita (I’m not really into ebooks, it hurts my eyes) but I could definitely say that it does made one think. No wonder it was still one of the best books published, no matter how controversial it was. πŸ™‚

  5. Hello Rachel!
    What a great review of Nabokov’s Lolita you’ve written here! Truth be told, I have tried to read this book three times now, but the language style and the writing just never made me want to continue the reading. So yes, I have stopped my reading. I don’t know if I will try to finish that book someday, or if it will figure in the pile of books that I will not attempt to read again XD We will see.

    Thank you for visiting my blog. I have left a response to your comment there, if you care to read it πŸ™‚ But you should definitely check out Revenge, it is full of suspense and you never know what to expect with the characters! I think the whole story is well written and it makes you want more from episode to episode!

    Take care!

  6. It makes me happy to know that people are not afraid of writing about hard topics like this one. As far as I know, pedophilia is a psychological disorder, and there is no known cure or treatment. In class, we learned that pedophiles sometimes will willingly get castrated because they don’t want to hurt anyone. But given society’s response to pedophiles these days, most of them just stay in hiding.

  7. Ohh you put up a review of Lolita! Gr8.
    1st, I must say, I loved your review. it explains the book really nicely along with what your feelings are about the book. Then, you know french? you have learnt it? I’m learning French and I totally love that language.
    Btw, I’m still reading The Amber Spyglass, well actually I read it half way and I still have to complete it… But I totally loved as much as I read till now.

  8. This actually seems like a really interesting book! I’m not easily disturbed when it comes to books, or even movies. A lot of things just…don’t disturb me. As much as this is, by society’s standards, disturbing, I think the plot would make it interesting. And you say that occasionally you’re “rooting” for the “bad guy”? I think that provides a really interesting twist to what this book is about. I might read a snippet of it and see if I’m interested at all. Summer is coming and I need some new books to read!

  9. I first heard of this book only recently, and briefly. Despite your well-written and thoughtful review, this novel is written about a topic I will refrain from reading.

  10. I’ve never heard of this book before! You’re pretty good at writing reviews, I must say. ^_^ I used to read books all the time, but now I have trouble concentrating on anything long enough to read/comprehend what’s going on in the book, so I haven’t read anything in a while besides those plot-less teenage books. πŸ˜› Oh well. This actually sounds like a book my mom might like, so I might recommend it to her!

  11. Lolita. I have heard of this book!! And I have seen people do web design looks and use Lolita as a name for their gothic anime female characters. I may need to read it … πŸ˜€

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