Thursday, 15 December 2011

Book Review: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Having not read any classics, or modern classics, for a while when I noticed this book on the shelf at the library I decided to take a look. I vaguely remember seeing part of the film once and though controversial I thought it might be interesting. Boy was I wrong!
This book was first published in the 1950s and is set in the 30s and 40s and tackles a subject that is still pretty taboo. Humbert Humbert is a paedophile, who lusts after what he terms "nymphets" When he finds himself unexpectedly staying with a widow he is delighted to discover her 12 year old daughter is just his type. This is putting it fairly bluntly, whereas Nabokov - or rather Humbert as the narrator - likes to dance around the subject matter using all manner of pretty language to try and make his proclivity appear acceptable. Over time he grooms Dolores, or Lolita as he calls her, and when an accident leaves her an orphan he sees the opportunity to spend the rest of his life with the love of his life. 

Lolita is something of a spoilt child, and I quite liked some of her lines but I also pitied her, especially later in the book. It's a shame the vast majority of the book is all about Humbert.

The quotes on the cover included "wildly funny" and "laugh aloud black humour" Now I'm not a delicate flower and the subject matter didn't automatically put my back up but I certainly didn't find much humour in it. While there is a little  comedy in the way Humbert sees and portrays himself the only line that actually made me laugh was " ...since I had disregarded all laws of humanity, I might as well disregard the rules of traffic." Some of the prose is beautiful but largely Humbert is overblown and frankly I wish I had read this on my kindle, to make looking up the obscure language he adopted easier. My schoolgirl French was up to some of the smatterings of French that he throws in, but mostly it left me lost. In fact a lot of the book is made up of insinuations and I'm still not entirely sure exactly what happened at some points. Perhaps I'm simply not intelligent enough to appreciate this book.

I found this a real slog and I was so happy to finish it. 

Format: Paperback, from the library
My Rating: 1*

1 comment:

Alexis @ Reflections of a Bookaholic said...

Well at least you finished it. I will stay far far away from this one.