Like so many books that are so often recommended to me, there are elements of the sublime and elements of disappointment in Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita.

Let’s begin by acknowledging that Nabokov is a genius.  At times, his prose here is so exquisite that you wonder how you could possibly bear to read another author again.  Particularly at the beginning and the end of this novel, which are spellbinding.  But I found the middle sections long-winded and repetitive. 

Those looking for a sensual adventure and sensual taboo will be disappointed by the main focus of this novel.  It is obsession – an obsession that could be mainly reproduced in any sexual relationship.  It is Lolita’s age, and her reliance on the predatory Humbert as pseudo-parent that disturbs.  The level of control he is able to have over her is truly shocking.  Not that she is a quiet little soul – she struggles with all her might to find self-determination.

However, Humbert’s predilection for pre-teen girls (which he calls “nymphets”) fails to shock.  I don’t know whether this is because Lolita herself is so sexually aware, or because I am difficult to shock.

There is a lot to interest in this text, but Nabokov stretches where he should be brief, and in these parts, he fails to choose his words as carefully as he does when the novel comes to its crucial points.  But he intrigues me enough to want to read more.  I read Pale Fire at Uni… might have to revisit it or a few of his others.


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