Lolita by Vladimir Nobokov is a scandalous novel with disgusting and unsympathetic characters. Well-written with a semi-interesting plot, this book is driven more by its notoriety than its actual content. The paedophilic nature of the content is what has made Lolita famous, so I will judge it based on that rather than simply remarking on the hatred I felt throughout for the characters.
I don’t feel like I can explain this book very succinctly, so here is the GoodReads blurb: 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.
What I thought…
I have conflicting opinions on this novel and one reason for that may simply be because I listened to the audio narration rather than reading the physical book. I believe that, had I been reading this on paper and could disconnect myself from the narrative voice, I would have found the majority of this book quite striking, as it is exquisitely well-written and enjoyable for any lover of words and literature. However, having that creepy (and very well-read) narrator breathing down my neck drew me into the story in such a way that I couldn’t help but be put off as I had to listen to him say every word. I must say that the narrator did a brilliant job at bringing Humbert off the paper, and I would be quick to turn away from him if I ever heard his voice in my ear.
The story itself is rather complex, plot-wise, and I enjoyed the travelling nature of it, reflecting the cat and mouse game that Humbert and Lo were constantly playing throughout. However, hearing somebody read their sexual encounters from the page made the words hit home for me, and I could not fathom what Humbert was doing nor how he felt about it. He truly thought that what he was doing was right up until a point; did not realise the effects he would have on the girl’s mental health. However, she was not a likeable character, either. While I sympathised with her being ‘fathered’ by this absolute monster, I could not enjoy reading about the ways she went about things from his perspective. I am sure that, told from anybody else’s perspective, she would appear normal and likeable, however Humbert really does bring out her worst side, whether in her actions or just because he is the one describing them.
Overall, I cannot say that I would recommend this novel to anybody in particular due to the paedophilia and lack of real remorse shown. I believe that it is interesting literary reading and could surely be analysed for more and more decades than it already has been. TRIGGER WARNING: Child sexual abuse.