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A book by Vladimir Nabokov

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Book Review: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

  • Jan 4, 2010
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As most of Nabokov's books are, this one was an exceptional joy to read. Even though the subject matter is deplorable, the writing style, imagery, and emotions that comprise this story make it a great piece of literary fiction. 
As I read the book, I found myself in another time and place that was described by a detestable pedophile named Humbert Humbert. From the very beginning of the book, it's easy to tell that he is an unreliable and disturbed narrator. His distorted view of life and his "relationship" with Lolita is supposed to make the women and men of the jury pity his pathetic existence. He considers himself an educated individual who was unjustly accused of a crime. Instead, his musings reveal him as an unstable monster; no better than the "brother" he tries to protect Lolita from. 
Every person the reader meets is distorted by Humbert's eyes, especially little Dolores Haze. He not only takes her innocence but her very name, which transforms from Dolores to Lo, Lolita, and eventually his nymphet. It is difficult to tell the nature of the characters because Humbert polarizes them: They are either a threat to his way of life or a mere annoyance not worth notice.
There were many questions I asked when reading the book: What is the truth? What is fiction? Is the entire book merely the imagination of a crazed pedophile? Who is Lolita outside of Humbert's prisoner? Often, these questions did not have any answers, but glimpses of solutions kept me feverishly reading, especially as they concerned Lolita. She is the real mystery. Even though the story is about her, the reader never sees anything from her perspective, which leaves us feeling helpless. We are a victim of Humbert's madness as well!
There were numerous slow spots to the story, which detract from the main interactions between Lolita and Humbert. After a short break from the reading, though, I was able to engage myself in the description of scenery during the characters' travels. The places they go to are reflections of their personalities. The beauty of nature starkly contrasts with Humbert, who is an abomination to all that is right and moral in the world. 
Thankfully, there are no pornographic scenes in the book. Instead, Nabokov hints at the sexual intrigues that occur with clever word play. Anyone with an imagination and an understanding of the English language will know what is going on in certain scenes. This type of writing reminds me of the older horror films where a lot of the macabre killing happened off-screen. 
Overall, I can see why this book has been challenged and censored in many parts of the world. It forces the reader to look into the darkest parts of human nature. What we find there is disheartening; there is no hope for redemption. 
Book Review: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

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February 29, 2012
Just reread your review and realize I already had commented on it. I still have it on my to read list.
March 09, 2012
Aw, thanks, Michael! I appreciate the re-read and additional comment. Always nice to see that members come back to classic yet good reviews. :) Please send me an email when you do read it. Would love to know your thoughts!
January 06, 2011
I never read this book because of the sensitive subject matter. Your review has stirred my interest and I may give it a look.
January 08, 2011
I'm glad the review made you interested in it, Michael! It's a great classic read that everyone should read. Despite the subject matter, it's a very PG book compared to some others I've read or what they show on television. Nabokov had a way with language that makes the book classy despite the plot.
November 18, 2010
Surprised I missed this review before. I saw the movie but I never read the book yet. Nice review, Adri!
November 18, 2010
It's a great book, William! They had a passage from it on my GRE Literature subject test. I was so excited to see it! They even had one of my quotes in that passage, lol. This is one of my older Goodreads reviews that I transfered over, so maybe that is why you missed it. :)
October 06, 2010
This is my all-time favorite. Great review, Adrianna. Pardolis, read it!
October 15, 2010
Thanks so much, Jen! This was one of my earliest reviews, so it's not as detailed as I would have liked. I'll probably re-read it one of these days, so I can write an even better review for it. :)
March 18, 2010
Very interesting review. You know, I might want to write a review on this if I get around to reading it. Sounds pretty intriguing.
March 18, 2010
Ooo! You should! It's a classic book for us English major types. I would love to know what you think about the language and subject matter! Maybe I will feature it as a topic for the Cafe Libri Community once you join. It will be a great way for you to add a review to our logs!
February 17, 2010
Really like your overview and analysis and reading flow.
February 18, 2010
Thank you very much! I appreciate the compliments on the review. The book took me a long time to read and just about as long to review. It was really difficult to express my emotions about it without ruining the plot and story for others. Nabokov's works inspire me both as a reader and as a writer. :)
January 14, 2010
I have always wanted to read this book. You are a fantastic writer, Adrianna. Great review! Keep it up!
January 14, 2010
Thank you so much for the kind response. I consider myself a writer even though I have only had poems and short stories published. After I finish my MA and Phd work, I want to publish a historical fiction novel. :) I hope you continue to read and rate my reviews!
January 14, 2010
That's fantastic! Please keep me posted when you do. Looking forward to your future reviews!
January 15, 2010
Thank you very much. I shall be sure to keep you posted when I do. :)
January 14, 2010
I am Russian and ashamed to say I haven't read this! It is on my list along with Anna Karenina, The Brothers Karamazov, and Crime and Punishment. Thank you so much for the well written review :)
January 14, 2010
Nothing to be ashamed of! There are too many books in the world to read them all. LOL! I usually get around to reading the classics through school or book groups. I haven't read any of the ones you listed here, though.
January 11, 2010
I've yet to read the book.  To be truthful, it's subject matter just kind of disturbs me and makes me uncomfortable.  I want to read it, though, I'm just a bit sensitive with this one.  But I do have a copy of it.
January 11, 2010
Yes, I can understand the sensitivity about the subject matter. I believe that is part of the intent of the author: to make you uncomfortable! I'm just glad there were no explicit details like a modern day Rated R movie would have shown. It was written with class, if that is possible for such a story.
January 08, 2010
I'm a huge fan of Nabokov, and this book is no exception. His writing is beautiful; I found myself wanting to cry at several points in this book, LOL. He does such an incredible job of making you think, "no, what this guy is doing is normal. He really loves her."...master of persuasion and prose!
January 08, 2010
I disagree with you about being persuaded that the guy was normal or that having any feelings for their relationship was ever "love." The only time I had pity for Humbert's character was when he recounted his childhood love experience, and only at that point because it was when he was truly innocent of any crimes. In fact, that relationship might have been the point where he lost his innocence...because it was from then that he became obsessed with little girls. The end scene with Humbert's "brother" really demonstrates what a monster Humbert was. He was an unreliable narrator who tried to trick the reader to feel pity for him. After reading the book, I am sorely disappointed with the movie version I saw a while ago. It did not do Humbert's character justice.
More Lolita (book) reviews
Quick Tip by . June 20, 2011
It has been awhile since I read this book and others by the author. I recommend it highly. Most people think of it only as a sex book. In fact the name Lolita has become synonomous with sex with a young girl. However, these peope are ovelooking the fact that this is a very well-written book.
review by . February 11, 2010
A wonderful book that should not be missed!
      my edition       Lolita is one of those books that you're either going to love or you're going to hate. I choose the former -- it is simply superb.         I fell in love with Nabokov after reading Pale Fire, but I'd never read Lolita. Truthfully, this book has been sitting on my bookshelf for years, because I was hesitant to read it due to the subject matter. Yes, the main character is a pedophile, yes, the subject in question …
review by . July 06, 2010
Vladimir Nabokov writes Lolita with an elegance that is more similar to poetry than prose. Despite Russian being his native tongue, he masters the English language with an ease and grace that is difficult to find in many writers. Although the book has been banned in the past and the subject matter often troubles moral purists and schoolteachers alike, the book is written in such a way that is tasteful and beautiful.      Humbert Humbert’s love for Lolita is forbidden, …
review by . May 19, 2010
This book is simply beautiful! Most people may think beautiful is a strange word to describe a love relationship between a very young girl and her much elder admirer, but Nabokov succeeds in writing the book in a way that denies all pre-conceived opinions. He is able to strip age from the two characters in order to reveal true human emotions in an entirely new spectrum. The plot is original and unpredictable and follows the "couple" as middle-aged Humbert traverses the country from one …
review by . June 08, 2010
This is, in my humble opinion, one of the greatest books written in the 20th century, not that I'm into hyperbole, but if my mom and any copy of this book were falling out of an airplane, and I could only save one- bye, mom.      This is the story, at least on the surface, of a middle- aged man in love with a 12 year old girl.  More importantly, this is an immaculately written book about desires that deviate from society's accepted norms.  It is also an example …
Quick Tip by . July 13, 2010
This book is beautifully written about disgusting events. It's great, but it seriously drags.
Quick Tip by . July 03, 2010
slightly disturbing tale but definitely a fair commentary on our culture
Quick Tip by . July 02, 2010
Nabokov's writing is absolutely beautiful. It's like reading poetry, not prose!
Quick Tip by . June 28, 2010
Brilliant writing.
Quick Tip by . June 16, 2010
This book will change you. I've read it several times and I'm still amazed at what Nabokov was able to do with language. One of my all time favorites.
About the reviewer
Adrianna Simone ()
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MY GROUPS (AND COMMUNITY):      The following information was taken from the officialCafe Libri Website.   Cafe Libri (Yahoo Reading Discussion Group)is the original Cafe … more
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About this book


Lolita (1955) is a novel by Vladimir Nabokov, first written in English and published in 1955 in Paris, later translated by the author into Russian and published in 1958 in New York. The book is internationally famous for its innovative style and infamous for its controversial subject: the protagonist and unreliable narrator, middle aged Humbert Humbert, becomes obsessed and sexually involved with a twelve-year-old girl named Dolores Haze.

After its publication, Nabokov's Lolita attained a classic status, becoming one of the best-known and most controversial examples of 20th century literature. The name "Lolita" has entered pop culture to describe a sexually precocious young girl. The novel was adapted to film in 1962 and again in 1997.

Lolita is listed in the TIME 100 Best English-language Novels from 1923 to 2005. It is fourth on the Modern Library's 1998 list of the 100 Best Novels of the 20th century.
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ISBN-13: 978-0822206835
Author: Vladimir Nabokov
Genre: Fiction, Literature
Publisher: Everyman's Library, Vintage
Date Published: 1955
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