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.