Lolita Book Reviews

Lolita Book Reviews - See what our book club thought of this revolutionary book. Why did it cause such a storm when it was launched in 1955? An uncomfortable read at times but lots of interesting discussion material!

Lolita Book Reviews


Published in 1955, there was a huge hullabuloo about this revolutionary tale; it was such a delicate subject to confront the public with at this time.

Look up the word "lolita" in the dictionary and you will find it there - defined as "a sexually precocious girl."

Reading it in today's society still makes for an uncomfortable read at times but well worth it all the same.

it's about a grown man who is totally obsessed with a girl who is only 12 years old. So how come at times you end up feeling sorry for him? A most intriguing read indeed.


The Plot

Lolita Book Reviews


The main character is Humbert Humbert who falls in love with 12 year old Dolores and he gives her the nickname, Lolita.

His obsession is such that he marries her awful mother in order to be near her. Her mother (his wife) reads Humbert's diary and discovers the awful truth about how he feels about her daughter. She is unfortunately run over before she has chance to tell anyone what she knows.


Humbert is then free to pick up Lolita from camp, where he abducts her, keeping her a prisoner as they travel from motel to motel across America.

When she gets ill and requires a stay in hospital, she escapes with "her Uncle" checking her out of hospital.

Humbert then goes on an endless search to find Lolita and her abductor, but to no avail.

Some time later, he gets a letter from her. She is pregnant and desperate for money. He goes to see her and gives her the money in return for her telling Humbert who helped her escape.

She confirms that Quilty (the guy who ran the school play) had helped her escape but had then asked her to be in his pornographic film. When she refused, he kicked her out.

Humbert goes in search of Quilty and in a rather comical scene,  shoots him several times.

Humbert is arrested shortly after killing Quilty for driving eratically but does end up in prison. We are lead to believe that Humbert leaves a set of memoirs only to be read after his death (the story we are now reading,) where he has changed all the names, except one - Lolita's. 

Sadly the ending is not a happy one for Lolita. She dies in child birth giving birth to still born baby.


Themes

Lolita Book Reviews


Obsession

Humbert's obsession with Lolita permeates every page - it is palpable. Give the story is written in the first person from Humbert's perspective, the writer very cleverly speaks to us directly & in addition, pleads with us as though we are a jury who must be kind in their judgement of him.

P118  He says to his reader, "Gentle women of the jury! Bear with me! Allow me to take just a tiny bit of your precious time."

The above is so necessary & very clever. By adopting this method, instead of feeling revulsion for this paedophile, we actually feel for him. Amazing writing!

Sexuality

I am sure that every person picking this novel up for the first time would expect this to be a  "Dirty" book. Who wants to read about a paedophile after all.
Surely It will be full of sexually explicit scenes involving a child?

Well, what is most impressive about Vladimir Nabokov's writing is his use of language. There are no gratuitous sex scenes. There are inuendos instead and the reader needs to join the dots themselves in some places.

It's easy to be swayed to not totally blaming Humbert for his actions, because of the way Lolita is presented. At one point, we are aware that she is actually seducing him. What a little hussy she is! We need to remind ourselves constantly that he is the adult.

Being Trapped


Clearly Lolita feels trapped and finds it hard to leave Humbert given the alternative is not much better.

We also see Humbert being trapped - ironically he abducts Lolita in the hope of getting some freedom. But they have to constantly travel to avoid being detected.

Humour

There is a much irony in the story of Lolita.

Humbert is hardly happy with the situation he finds himself.  For a start, he has a conscience & he feels guilt. And, when he does finally have his very wicked way with her, there is no sense of satisfaction or gratification.

Infact, most of the time he is SO miserable. Ironically, throughout the novel, he gains very little happiness or joy from his obsession. The more he is in despair, asking us for our sympathy etc, the funnier it becomes.

I couldn't help but feel some pity for him when he finally realises that  whilst he had really cared for her & loved her,  she had never cared for or loved  him!

Lolita is hardly the normal victim & perhaps that is why we can be so easily swayed to feel sorry for him. Yes, he hardly fits the profile of a paedophile as provided in the newspaper or in other literature.


Book Club Questions

Lolita Book Reviews


Can Humbert be excused for his relationship with Lolita?

How much is Lolita to blame?

Discuss the first person narrator in Lolita - does the author succeed in making us feel sorry for Humbert?

Are Humbert and Quilty as bad as each other or is one more evil than the other?


Does Lolita have a conscience or any morals?

Discuss the character of Lolita's mother, Charlotte. Did you enjoy her as a character?

Discuss the language and style of Nabokov's.

Do you think Nabokov has issues with the American way of life? Is there an underlying Europe V's America aspect in this novel?

Why do you think Nabokov chose Humbert Humbert as the name of his character?


Like?

Lolita Book Reviews


Our book club were glad to read this book and to tick another classic off the list! We gave it 7/10.

Although the start was slow, we did come to see the cleverness of the novel & finished up loving it.

By the end, we could see why it is regarded as a Classic.


We loved the language & the characterisation. We had good fun discussing why Nobokov picked Humbert Humbert as a name. We presumed it was due to his dual personality - wanting to be good, but essentially a bad person.

Humbert is a never to be forgotten character, full of complexities & unintended humour.

But the minor characters are also well written & developed & funny, Charlotte to the point of grotesqueness.

We hope you enjoyed our Lolita book reviews and will choose it for your book club too.

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