Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov | A Book Review (Contains spoilers)

August 21, 2015

Vladimir Nabokov

That I loved her hopelessly? That she was only fourteen?

Lolita tells the story of a 30 something man Humbert who's obsession both mentally and sexually with young girl Lolita leads to murder. The story is told by Humbert himself recalling events of his life from the confinements of a “psychopathic ward”. He writes in a mixture of 1st and 3rd person narrative his point of view of his adult life and personally directing his audience as “you readers” in what he calls a “sinister memoir”.

Humbert born in France in 1910, his story begins with his mother's death when Humbert was just three. The story enfolds his first love; Annabel, a surprise but a female actually his own age. “My little Annabel was no nymphet to me; I was her equal” As Humbert grows into an adult, readers see his passion for young girls develop, from prying in public places and through use of sexualized poetic language and descriptions “her lips as red as red licked candy”. The story prevails and Humbert finds himself a lodger in the home of widowed Mrs Haze.

This is where the plot thickens and becomes a complex novel about sex, sexual attraction and murder. Humbert meets the daughter of Mrs Haze, Lolita. Instantly as Lolita enters the story, she becomes an object of his desire, he sexualizes the young girl through his vivid descriptions of her “school girl thighs”. A relationship forms between himself and Lolita, almost one that mimics a real father/daughter relationship. Lolita is a problem child for her mother, but Humbert sees past her opinions.

After receiving a letter from Mrs Haze, Humbert makes the decision to marry her in a bid to get closer to Lolita. Not only does he reveal himself as a sexual predator but he constructs plans to murder Charlotte (Mrs Haze). He ends up drugging his victims (Another crime) after falsely receiving a prescription for sleeping pills for his 'insomnia'. Humbert keeps a black pocket diary locked away recording his scribblings about life, however Charlotte discovers it!

The discovery ultimately leads to her ever so unfortunate death. On her way to post letters, she's struck by a car and dies! Humbert claims Lolita is his daughter, takes her out of her summer camp and embarks on an adventure around the States, telling her simply that her mother in undergoing a major operation until later on she discovers the harsh truth.

Part two of the novel details their adventures from motel to motel. Vladimir uses powerful descriptive language through listing places and locations, alliteration that flows so poetically “pharisaic parody of privacy” and beautiful similes “my heart was like snow under thin crimson skin”. Humbert never describes their sexual relations other than vague hints “particularly violent morning in bed”. Paranoia somewhat sets in after numerous occasions of the pair narrowly missing being caught.

The pair rent a house and Lolita begins attending a private boarding school. They live a somewhat mundane 'normal' life. Humbert having chess playing sessions with his neighbour and Lolita involving herself in acting, tennis and swimming and making friends with the local girls. Lolita, the budding teenager ends up rebelling against her 'father figure' and claims he “violates” her and accuses him of “murdering her mother”. Protesting she wants to leave school, they continue their adventures across the States.

Paranoia traps Humbert again when he's convinced the red convertible is following himself and Lolita and making an investigation about the suspected pair. Lolita unfortunately takes ill in hospital and 'someone' discharges her and Humbert doesn't find her again for several years when he receives a letter from her. The letter reveals she's expecting a child and requests a sum of money to help her and her family along. Humbert successfully tracks her down despite no address being on the sent letter, he pleads with his love to leave her partner Dick and “come to live with me, and to die with me”, on her decline Humbert almost seems psychotic.

Gun in tow, he murders the man who originally discharged his Lolita from hospital. Humbert is eventually arrested after deliberately going against the laws of traffic, driving down the wrong side of the road and running a red light.

A world known classic, Lolita wasn't a novel I expected to enjoy (considering the nature of the novel being about paedophilia) however I got drawn in by Nabokov's style of writing, through the frequent use of poetic language and how some parts could actually resemble poetry. The progression from “nymphet” into teenage to expectant mother was one of beautiful yet tainted growths, affected by a childhood of sexual exploitation.

A truly remarkable piece of work.

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