I read Lolita as part of my University course but I would have happily read it for pleasure as well. I was glad it came up in my syllabus as it is a novel I have been intrigued about for a long while.
Written by Vladimir Nabokov, the book tells the story of a man named Humbert Humbert and his obsession with a young girl named Lolita. This use of point of view I found extraordinary as it allows the reader to fully empathise with a character whose actions would otherwise be considered despicable.
After moving in with Lolita and her mother, as a lodger, Humbert seems to fall for Lolita, beyond all rational sense. He keeps journals of his fantasies but, after the discovery of these, Lolita’s mother is killed in a horrific accident before she has the chance to tell anyone about Humbert’s pedophilic’s interests. This allows Humbert to become Lolita’s stepfather and she is submissive as she fears entering a life of care. They travel America together on two separate road trips and Lolita ends up engaging in sexual acts with her stepfather in order to keep her own freedoms.
Eventually, she ends up escaping his clutches but the real question is how and I won’t spoil that for you. The ending is gripping and satisfying and totally unpredictable so don’t be worried about a let down. The only parts of the novel that dragged are some of the parts where they are travelling. Personally I feel this could have been condensed somewhat but it doesn’t distract too much from the overall effect.
The true brilliance of this novel is the way all these terrible events and awful mental thoughts seem so natural and normal because of their narration from this mentally sick man. After just a few pages, we stop thinking of Humbert’s nymphets as an awful idea, we fully believe in his frame of mind, hardly ever doubting his actions. He convinces us Lolita is a 12 year old temptress but when stepping back, as readers, we realise this isn’t possible, it is simply the strength of Humbert’s narration.
This is definitely one of those novels to read for the strength of the literature just as much, or maybe more so, than for the story itself. The characters are strong and the film adaptations are terrible so read the book!