I had to give this novel two stars on GoodReads due to the uncomfortable subject content and plot of the story, especially due to the recent sexual abuse allegations in the media.
For those of you readers who do not know the storyline of ‘Lolita,’ it is about a 37-year-old man named Humbert Humbert who moves to America and in order to get close and groom the landlady’s daughter, he chooses to marry her before her untimely and horrific death; thus means Humbert enables to court Lolita whilst travelling across the US.
What makes this novel so arguably brilliant and disturbing is that Lolita or Dolores Haze is twelve years old at the beginning of the novel (and seventeen and pregnant at the end) and is sexually abused by the protagonist that plays her only father figure that appears throughout the novel. Humbert does not appear to be the monster that would naturally be portrayed in the media and in real life, this is because he is the narrator and has the ability to blur the lines between real life and his fantasies. This makes it hard for the reader to be able to truly believe what is really happening in the novel, for example, Humbert suggests that it is actually Lolita who seduces him rather than the other way round. However, the reader is able to assume based on Lolita’s behaviour and hostility towards her step-father that she cannot stand the abusive relationship that she is trapped in but over their travels, she learns how to manipulate him for sex (becoming an unwilling prostitute) in return for a small amount of freedom. Through this manipulation, Humbert is also able to fall victim to Lolita’s nymph-like features and attitudes and portrays this through his love and protectiveness of her, therefore, showing his own innocence.
The narration is beautiful and imaginative, and does not explicitly describe in detail the main consummative events of the novel, however the reader is able to understand through subtle euphemisms what is taking place. That is the main reason why I haven’t enjoyed the novel because I’m not naive enough to not understand the events taking place and with more and more celebrity abuse scandals being revealed in the media it only brings the subject closer to home and more real. It does make you question whether Nabokov himself was a paedophile as he is able to write from the position of Humbert very successfully.
Overall, this novel has opened my eyes to a different type of unreliable narrator and variation of character that features throughout modern and classic literature. Whilst I did not enjoy the novel and wouldn’t read it again (if it wasn’t for studying it in my second year of university), it is one novel that I can cross off my reading bucket list.