Hello everyone. I’m back from my vacation, seeing family was great, and I’m getting back into the swing of things. Last time, I mentioned that I was about a fourth of the way into Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov and said that I would return with my verdict about it once I’d finished. I was thankfully unable to read it on my trip, as I was busy seeing family I haven’t seen in years, but I’ve had this week to really enjoy the story.

Before I go any further, I want to address some warnings for the reader. I don’t know what you may have heard about Lolita, but it has a reputation for being a controversial book for a reason. I am not giving it away when I tell you that Lolita is told from a pedophile’s point of view. Humbert Humbert, the narrator, is completely obsessed with Dolores Haze (Lolita), who he first meets when she is 11 years old. He enters into a sexual relationship with her. It is half abusive, half insane. It is an unescapable fact that Lolita is a disturbing read and not for everyone. If you can’t stomach the subject, don’t bother to read the rest of this post as I will specifically talk about the elements of writing used within the story (so it will be more objective), but I will also talk about the subjects within the book. Last warning, if you do not want to read about this subject in any context, stop right here.

Okay, for those still reading, I want to reiterate that I am using the book to talk about writing conventions. I do not believe in pedophilia, do not condone it in any way, but I admit that I really enjoyed the read. I can separate my personal beliefs from what I read. Not everyone can.

First of all, I want to state again that the liquid language is reason alone to read this book. The descriptions and style of writing tug you gently in and make everything sound so real, you feel more as if you are reading a biography or personal diary instead of a fictional police testimony for murder (this isn’t a spoiler as Humbert tells you almost immediately that he has killed someone, is in jail, and is writing down the events as they happened). The descriptions of locations and events, the attention to detail and the meticulous record of cities, streets, and touches of character make for a rich read. On a personal note, I discovered something totally bizarre and yet awesome about myself. Lolita is littered with French sentences, sometimes even whole paragraphs (Humbert is European by birth and upbringing). I have never studied French. My mother speaks and reads it as a third language but I have never done formal study. And yet somehow in reading the passages, I discovered that I actually understand French (reading it). I do not know how this happened, if my Spanish background enables me to pick up other languages, but for whatever reason I discovered that I can read and understand French with no formal training. Totally bizarre.

Plot and pacing
There were slow moments where I felt a little lost when the narrator overloaded us with information that wasn’t at all interesting. Of course, this told us something about the narrator – that he notices a million details in a moment and so, when he supposedly does not remember certain details of some particularly stressful event, he is either blocking it from his memory or is purposefully saying that he does not remember those details when he actually does. Nothing actually happens in the story, which is made especially obvious by the ending (which I have to say, didn’t work for me). It sort of just… ends. There isn’t so much a resolution so much as an abrupt climax that seems wholly unrelated to the main storyline and then a brief explanation of why Humbert (the narrator, who specifically states that his own name is also a pseudonym) doesn’t want his memoirs released until after Lolita’s death. There was a lot of buildup and then a completely insane conclusion.

Dolores Haze, a.k.a. Lolita (also known as Dolly, Lo, Lola, my love, and so on)
Portrayed as a spoiled, listless brat who manipulates Humbert throughout the story, Dolores is a strong character who escapes not just her abusive relationship with Humbert but also leaves the man who helped her escape Humbert, a man she loved but who had his own brand of abuse for her. I really liked Dolores and her growth from a child to a woman (at the “ripe old age of seventeen”). Hers is also supposedly the only name that is not “changed” to protect her; ironic since the entire story is fictional but presented as a true occurrence.

Humbert Humbert
Our protagonist and narrator. Well… I have to say. He’s a pedophile, rapist, violent, murdering, manipulative, horrible excuse for a human being. Now that that’s out of the way, I had a lot of trouble hating him the entire time I read the book. He just seems to completely unhinged from reality, his perspective was interesting. He makes a habit of reminding the reader (constantly) that he is a very good-looking man who could attract any woman’s attention (if he were at all interested) and goes on to tout his academic brilliance to the point where he’s laughable. He seems like such a pathetic character; even the final scene where he murders a man is tarnished by Humbert’s drunken clumsiness. His concern and apparent affection for certain characters – Charlotte, Dolores’s mother – and Rita, his only seemingly normal relationship after losing Dolores. That was the thing about Humbert: he seemed to genuinely care sometimes. Even his insane, disturbing obsession with Lolita has a strange edge at the end as he leaves her (and her new life) alone even after he has found her again. He is left with sadness and love for her, even when she is no longer a child, something I had not expected.

Feelings left with in the end
This book was disturbing but the writing was brilliant. I have to say, I enjoyed the ride and the lessons I learned about myself as a reader and a writer. This isn’t a book for everyone but for those with an open mind, it can teach you a lot about great storytelling.

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