I decided to read another of the ‘classics’ this year, and settled on the weird and unsettling ‘Lolita’. This book is definitely a hard read and very confusing at times but tells an interesting story about Humbert and the lengths he goes in his desire and lust over his Lolita.
Date published: 1955
Page Count: 361
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.
The first thing I have to say about this book is that it is weird and unsettling, but also a well written and crafted story about a man and his obsession with his adopted daughter, Lolita. This book deals with a very sensitive subject matter, pedophilia and grooming, but in a plain and insightful way-not condoning the act, but rather offering an insight into the motives and mindset of the protagonist Humbert.
Humbert’s character certainly is interesting, and the story is told by him through what I gathered is a manuscript written by the character detailing the story of him and Lolita. Through him we see the beginning of his obsession with small girls, those which he calls Nymphettes, which began when he was a child when his romance with a girl was cut short due to her death. He tells us how his desires began to grow and the lengths he went to ‘satisfy’ them-by sitting in parks and watching the girls, sleeping with prostitutes that had a child-like appearance. Humbert knows what he is doing is wrong, but this does not stop him from pursuing a relationship with Lolita, the daughter of his landlord whom he married to get closer to the girl. What is unsettling the most is how charming and witty he is and the lengths he goes to maintain the
The story was very slow and took a while to emerge. We start by going through Humbert’s childhood and how he came to meet Lolita. The next phase of the book is how he started to work his way into both her, and her mothers life, and upon fearing he would be separated from her, married her mother. I had to laugh at the cruel twist of fate and the events which led to Humbert and Lolita embarking on a cross-country road trip-and this road trip takes up the majority of the middle section of the book. We see Humbert attempts to control Lolita and maintain their sexual relationship while avoiding discovery and keeping her as ‘happy’ as possible (which I would imagine would be hard considering the circumstances). This part of the book gets very longwinded, with pages dedicated to meaningless descriptions of places and hotels. The ending, honestly, is meh. We see closure for the characters, but as a reader I felt very unsatisfied with how it ended and was expecting something more exciting or impactful.
I feel like ‘Lolita’ tells a story and has some well written and detailed passages, but after I finished it, I did not really get a take away message or feeling from the book. It felt like an autobiography , and through this autobiography we get an insight into the disturbed mind of Humbert who externally comes across as a normal man. However we see him hid his desires, justify his lust for Lolita and manipulated people to serve his own ends. I feel like much of the writing and word play escaped me, so if you are game and looking for a challenge and tough read, I would recommend picking up Lolita.