Publication Date: 1955
Genre: Adult Literature
Humbert Humbert, a European man in his thirties, moves to live with the Haze family that consists of mother Charlotte and daughter Dolores. Humbert falls in love with Dolores, whom he nicknames Lolita, and marries Charlotte to become sinisterly closer to Lolita. Humbert’s obsession with Lolita is shown to be disastrous for everyone involved.
‘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.’
Lolita is told in the form of a diary, putting the readers directly into Humbert’s mind. Although disturbing and at many times confronting, there is supposed to be a sense of sympathy given to this diehard romantic. Nabokov was able to do this well, portraying Humbert as both an immoral and kind man. His acting on his crude thoughts is what should remind the readers of his untrustworthiness and unjustly behaviour.
I loved the intelligence behind the story of Lolita, especially in a book written many years ago. The novel is more than what people who haven’t read Lolita think of it, as it is full of consistent literary prose and insightful bits of wisdom. It is a difficult book to read and understand, and should not be read purely because it contains disturbing – yet intriguing -sexual undertones.
While in the novel Humbert says that Lolita seduced him, it is from a moral perspective the other way around. Humbert is a very unreliable narrator because of this. A young child cannot seduce an older man, making Humbert a character that should not be given empathy, for adults should make the right decisions. As readers we should be aware that paedophilia is an illegal, deviant act that should not be acted on. However, our own judgement surrounding the punishment of Humbert is up to interpretation, as all punishment is.
A negative about this book is that it is fairly long and has paragraphs that sometimes last a page. This can make it difficult to read because I will often think that half of a paragraph could have been edited out. But as this book is a classic from over 60 years ago, I tended to overlook this negative. The writing is very eloquent and sophisticated, influencing the character of Humbert to appear well-rounded and strong.
I enjoyed the ending. It ends how you would imagine – in tragedy. If it had a happy ending then there is no way the book would have gotten published. Humbert did something that perhaps should have redeemed himself as a character but did not redeem himself in my eyes. The tragedy did not leave me saddened, because I was comforted by its realistic ending. I also enjoyed a decision that Humbert made that involved him determining his fate from a legal perspective, because his initial crime was of course something he needed to be punished for.
If you are a fan of classics then certainly give this book a read. If you are not, you may still enjoy this twisted ‘romance’ story. I would not recommend this to younger readers.
- Have you read Lolita? What are your thoughts on it? Is there a reason keeping you from it?
- If you would prefer not to read it, there is the 1997 film that is a good adaptation of the story.