Sean Barrs the Bookdragon's Reviews > Lolita

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
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it was amazing
bookshelves: 5-star-reads, classics, 2017-10-book-challenge

Pushing the boundaries of what acceptable literature can actually be, Lolita is very much a piece of art.

For many years I kept hearing about this book, the content sounding disturbing and perhaps even slightly fascinating. It’s a book that’s central theme is one of the darkest elements of mankind: paedophilia. And although such a thing is beyond revolting, it is used to tell the tale of a very lost and very lonely man. Humbert is a man to be pitied, pitied because he actually exists.

A child in a man’s body, unable to move on from what was to him the most perfect memory; Humbert’s obsession with youth takes on the form of paedophilia: he becomes attracted to this idea of purity and develops strong sexual feelings towards it. Humbert knows he is a monster, but he just doesn’t care. To him his feelings are perfectly justifiable, natural even. He has an incredibly distorted view of the world; thus, we see the world through the eyes of an extremely unreliable narrator. Perhaps unreliable is the wrong word. He reports what he sees with utmost honesty; however, his perceptions of these experiences are, well, just wrong.

As a character study, he is a very worthy subject. In the wake of Freudian psychoanalysis, Nabokov’s novel is aware of the rising field of psychology. Humbert is a walking contradiction. He is at times unbelievably arrogant, and at other times he is timid and weak; he is passive yet manipulative; he derides nothing from life other than a person sense of sexual gratification: it’s all he lives for. He has an exceedingly narrow range of interests; he scrutinises everything and remembers the most minor of details. He is charming, but at other times completely socially awkward. I think it wouldn’t be too far a thing to suggest that there are elements of Autism within his personality. He is obsessive about things, about his work and “his” Lolita. Ironically, at one point, he expresses succinct knowledge of Freud and at another he demonstrates complete ignorance towards Freud’s psychosexual stages of development. So who exactly is this Humbert?

Humbert is lost; he is lost in life, and he is lost within himself: he is hopeless, looking for any sense of light in his life. Unfortunately, this projection of desperation takes on the form of a child. He falls in love with Lolita, and what she represents to him. But of course it’s not real love; Lolita is just a sexual object to him not a person. So what follows is a story of a man who has convinced himself that his actions are perfectly justified. When he takes a twelve year old child in his arms; it is perfectly fine to his mind because she comes willing. Never mind the fact that he has crafted a situation so that she responds to his advances. She is vulnerable and completely alone in the world; she has no one to turn to in her moment of grief, and the snake is ready to lunge.

Nabokov describes some truly disturbing scenes, though he does so with eloquence bordering on the genius. Sounds odd, considering what I have just described. The content of the book is vile, Humbert is vile, but in a fictionalised world we have to look beyond that. The world is seen through the eyes of Humbert, so everything we see is what he sees and what he experiences. Nabokov uses free-indirect style to narrate some harrowing scenes, the content is vile but the language is beautiful. Again, this is what Humbert experiences. As troubling as this book may be, I argue that this has very strong place in the literary world. Nabokov explores the mind of a sexual predator and I think as readers we can learn a great deal in the process. We can see how the psychological make up of such an individual is formed and we can see what they think and they feel. To understand such a man is the first step towards stopping him and recognising this behaviour in other men.

As a reviewer, I find it of vital importance to read the reviews of others. There’s a quote on the back of my book from one such review; it says, and I quote “There’s no funnier monster in modern literature than poor, doomed Humbert Humbert.” I cannot quite describe how angry that quote makes me. There is nothing funny about Lolita.This book is terribly serious in content, and Humbert is not a man to be laughed at. What we have is a deeply disturbed individual, one confused and drifting through life, cold and utterly broken inside, and he is about to ruin the life of a young girl.

I don’t laugh at this book, I weep at its brilliance.
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Reading Progress

April 26, 2017 – Started Reading
May 3, 2017 – Shelved
May 3, 2017 – Shelved as: 5-star-reads
May 3, 2017 – Finished Reading
May 13, 2017 – Shelved as: classics
April 22, 2019 – Shelved as: 2017-10-book-challenge

Comments Showing 1-39 of 39 (39 new)

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Morgan One of the best books ever! Although I got disturbed to the point I "almost" gave up, but that was the power of Nabokov's writing. Glad I finish it when I did.


message 2: by Rosemary (new)

Rosemary Atwell Can't wait for your review. One of my favourite books.


Vishal Goel My favourite book. Waiting for your review.


Vicky Kern loved, loved, loved Lolita! Nabakov was a genius


Sanja I really enjoyed the first half of the book, that would habe been a five star rating for me too. And I totally agree that the writing was extraordinary! But the second half made me sick to the point where not even the beautiful writing could make up for the awful things that happened plot-wise. I finished it, but that was heavy stuff... sticks with you for a very long time. Looking forward to your review!


Sean Barrs the Bookdragon Sanja wrote: "I really enjoyed the first half of the book, that would habe been a five star rating for me too. And I totally agree that the writing was extraordinary! But the second half made me sick to the poin..."

I agree, the first half is certainly stronger. And heavy stuff is one way to describe it!


Sean Barrs the Bookdragon Vicky wrote: "loved, loved, loved Lolita! Nabakov was a genius"

I can see why!


Sean Barrs the Bookdragon Adrianne wrote: "I'm glad you enjoyed the book- looking forward to your review!!"

Rosemary wrote: "Can't wait for your review. One of my favourite books."

Vishal wrote: "My favourite book. Waiting for your review."

It's up!


Sean Barrs the Bookdragon Morgan wrote: "One of the best books ever! Although I got disturbed to the point I "almost" gave up, but that was the power of Nabokov's writing. Glad I finish it when I did."

I would agree, this book is certainly a remarkable piece of work


Sonja ✧ Badass Wanderer ✧ Fantastic review, Sean!


message 11: by Vahid (new)

Vahid Humbert seems to be the kind of a person who has fallen into one of the many murky, filthy, and agonizing wells of this world and what is more doleful is that I don't think he understand where he is.
I enjoyed your review


Hailie great review


Pascale W. Pelletier Your review is perfection.


message 15: by Melinda (new) - added it

Melinda Ive wanted to read this for some time.


Regina A. S. I don't think he actually meant laughing at Humbert Humbert, but about his quite "special" sense of humour....? o.0


Sean Barrs the Bookdragon Sonja wrote: "Fantastic review, Sean!"

thanks :)


Sean Barrs the Bookdragon Vahid wrote: "Humbert seems to be the kind of a person who has fallen into one of the many murky, filthy, and agonizing wells of this world and what is more doleful is that I don't think he understand where he i..."

Glad to hear, and he really doens't quite realise how damaged he actually is.


Sean Barrs the Bookdragon Hailie wrote: "great review"

thank you :)


Sean Barrs the Bookdragon Melinda wrote: "Ive wanted to read this for some time."

then you should go for it!


Sean Barrs the Bookdragon Gandalf wrote: "I don't think he actually meant laughing at Humbert Humbert, but about his quite "special" sense of humour....? o.0"

Possible, either way he is still making light of a terrible situation.


Sean Barrs the Bookdragon Pascale wrote: "Your review is perfection."

kind words, thank you. I enjoyed writing it. :)


message 23: by Iris (new) - rated it 4 stars

Iris Lolita's life wasn't ruined. She never gave Humbert that power.


Sean Barrs the Bookdragon Iris wrote: "Lolita's life wasn't ruined. She never gave Humbert that power."

Debatable, she directly mentions at the end that he ruined her.


Alice this was a pleasure to read, well said, wonderful review.


message 26: by Puneet (new) - added it

Puneet Gautam Brilliant review, Sean! I have been putting off reading this book for a very long time due to its theme - which i find very repulsive. Your review, however, has made me reconsider my doubts about reading it.


Nathalie I'm currently reading Lolita and find your review very insightful. I almost gave up on it in the beginning but I'm glad I decided to continue. Nabokov proves to be a very skilful writer in what must have been his second (or third?) language.


Sean Barrs the Bookdragon alice wrote: "this was a pleasure to read, well said, wonderful review."

thanks :)


Sean Barrs the Bookdragon Puneet wrote: "Brilliant review, Sean! I have been putting off reading this book for a very long time due to its theme - which i find very repulsive. Your review, however, has made me reconsider my doubts about r..."

It's worth it. it really is.


Sean Barrs the Bookdragon Nathalie wrote: "I'm currently reading Lolita and find your review very insightful. I almost gave up on it in the beginning but I'm glad I decided to continue. Nabokov proves to be a very skilful writer in what mus..."

It's amazing really. he has a stronge rgrasp that most native speakers/writers.


message 31: by Ned (new) - rated it 4 stars

Ned Fabulous review.


Georgie Absolutely incredibly put, I adore this novel not for its controversy but the masterful way Nabokov plays with language and the way in which such he delves into the mind of such an unreliable narrator as Humbert Humbert and manages to craft goodness within the perverted soul


Sean Barrs the Bookdragon Ned wrote: "Fabulous review."

thanks :)


Sean Barrs the Bookdragon Georgie wrote: "Absolutely incredibly put, I adore this novel not for its controversy but the masterful way Nabokov plays with language and the way in which such he delves into the mind of such an unreliable narra..."

Thanks, it is an incredible piece of writing. The words entralled me, poetry in novel form.


message 35: by Imogen (new)

Imogen I've been wanting to read this for quite a while, but this review might have just pushed it to the front of my TBR.


Khwaja Nuzhat So many people differs when I say it’s a beautiful piece of literature. Very beautiful review, well explained :)


message 37: by Vahid (new)

Vahid Sean I made great mistake, when I read this book, I put one star only because I had problem with author's mindset . I think it's beyond any shadow of a doubt that this book is a grand piece of literature , I mean the first couple of lines inflame the reader's eye to keep reading. Nobokov is outstandingly innovative for writing about this dark element of life. My perplexity was about the strong duality I found this author had injected into this book. In short, I think I clearly saw the ineluctable presence of Jekyll and hide. Having read the book, I had a feeling that Humbert was condemned to being Hyde . So I think in the coldest and darkest winters of our entity we have got a tinge of spring left in our heart to hold on to , in this novel, both interestingly and oddly , there was complete obliteration of Jekyll's existence , am I hallucinating ;) , what do u think of my statement ?


Sean Barrs the Bookdragon Zoheb wrote: "Terrific review Sean. Lucidly written. The book must have been quite an experience. I haven't read this one. However, your review gave me a shocking peek into it."

Thank you- it is certainly worth a read! 😊


message 39: by I'mogén (new) - added it

I'mogén This was a fantastic review. I recall watching the film a good few years ago and really wanted the book. At that time my mum was having none of it and was very uncomfortable that I had seen the film! I finally bought the book myself around a year or 2 again and need to read it, because although disturbing, the story is very interesting


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