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Showing 1-10 of 63 reviews(2 star). Show all reviews
TOP 1000 REVIEWERon December 5, 2015
Middle-aged paedophile Humbert Humbert narrates the story of how he repeatedly abuses and rapes a child.

Despite the fact that I knew going in that this was what the book was fundamentally about, I had hoped that it might have some merits that would outweigh the unpleasantness of the subject matter. For example, I've read a million reviews saying how wonderfully written it is. At the point where I was dying of tedium around the 40% mark, praying that he would stop repeating himself and just for once say 'freckles' instead of consulting his thesaurus and coming up with 'lentigo' instead, I rechecked some of the reviews and noted the little rider that 90% of them add – I paraphrase: “the prose is wonderful, considering he wasn't writing in his first language.” Aha! If only I'd paid more attention – 'cos in general, anytime anyone follows the word “wonderful” with the word “considering” that usually equates to “not really wonderful at all”. Certainly his love of words shines through, and I grant his mastery of English is considerably greater than many native speakers. But the purpose of a wide vocabulary is surely to enable one to communicate more effectively – not to spend one's time replacing perfectly functional commonplace words with others that are never used. Unless one is compiling a cryptic crossword...

Of course, had I been swept up in the masterful story-telling, I wouldn't have had time to get picky about the pretentiousness of the language. But I fear I didn't find the storytelling masterful at all. Surprising, since Nabokov tells us in his foreword (written tongue-in-cheek as if by a fictional character but still managing to sound rather nauseatingly self-complimentary) that Humbert has written a great work of art, and goes on to say...

“ magically his singing violin can conjure up a tendresse, a compassion for Lolita that makes us entranced with the book while abhorring its author.”

Hmm! Well... anyway...

Perhaps at the time of writing the whole concept of grooming a child would have been shocking, but frankly it's a story we hear time and again now, both in reality and in fiction, so its shock value is considerably lessened. Its unpleasantness, however, remains. I think the thing I liked least about it was the attempt to make the story humorous. While Nabokov does often remind us of the real cruelty at the heart of the story - for instance, when he mentions Lolita crying herself to sleep each night - I felt that he was painting Humbert in too sympathetic a light, though I wasn't sure that this was his intention. And conversely, showing Lolita as too well able to cope with the abuse both as it happened and afterwards. In fact, Lolita's strength is in a sense a get out of jail free card for Humbert (or Nabokov), because Nabokov would have found it much more difficult to put in his little “jokes”, surely, had Lolita been portrayed more truthfully. I spent much of my time debating whether the falseness of Lolita's character was a deliberate effect of Humbert's unreliability as a narrator, but actually I couldn't convince myself that he is unreliable. I think we are supposed to accept that events happened as he describes them, which left me with real credibility problems.

Certainly we are not supposed to assume that the book has any meaning deeper than the story it tells – Nabokov himself makes this clear, in his afterword...

“There are gentle souls who would pronounce Lolita meaningless because it does not teach them anything. I am neither a reader nor a writer of didactic fiction, and, despite John Ray's assertion, Lolita has no moral in tow. For me a work of fiction exists only insofar as it affords me what I shall bluntly call aesthetic bliss, that is a sense of being somehow, somewhere, connected with other states of being where art (curiosity, tenderness, kindness, ecstasy) is the norm.”

I agree – it is meaningless and it has no moral in tow. Sadly it did not provoke in me any feelings of bliss, aesthetic or otherwise – though it does have the distinction of being the only book I remember reading that both bored me and made me want to vomit simultaneously. Screeds of it are tediously repetitive – the pages and pages where he describes all the different kinds of hotels they stay in read like some kind of holiday brochure written by an aspiring poet doing a summer job, or perhaps more like the reviews on TripAdvisor. I would have skipped through to the good bits only I couldn't find out where they were. One more lingering description of Lolita's golden tan would have provoked me to start campaigning for compulsory sunscreen. And just when I could see the light at the end of the tunnel, I was forced to live through the most ridiculous climax (an unfortunate choice of words, perhaps, in the circumstances) with some of the least convincing dialogue I have ever read.

“Ah, that hurts, sir, enough! Ah, that hurts atrociously, my dear fellow. I pray you, desist.”

My feelings exactly. So, it's very well written, considering English isn't his first language. And that's pretty much the best I can find to say about it.
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on July 1, 2016
I wasn't disappointed with the story which starts on Chapter 1. However, this edition of the kindle edition had several typos in the text, and apparently it is missing the foreword to the novel which explains why the novel is published. I was disappointed at the end because the foreword was missing. Chapter one through 36 is the story of the Humbert and Lolita and how Humbert first seduces Lolita, lives with her and essentially holds her captive and how he finally loses Lolita and how this leads to the consequences that Humbert faces now. The novel Lolita has a reputation of being erotica and really when one reads the novel to the end it does not raise to that level. I really enjoyed the novel, but the reason I gave it only two stars is because it is missing the foreword.
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on December 9, 2014
May be the theme of this novel was scandalous and tabu at the time it was written. I found this novel boring,and repetitious. The use of French language was excessive, It was perhaps more to show the knowledge of French by the author than to enhance the narrative. I did not like at all the excessive use of page after page written in columns of one or two letters. It was sometimes difficult to make sense of it. Overall a mediocre book.
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on February 4, 2013
Maybe it is because I have daughters myself, but I just found this book uncomfortable to read. Is it different? Yes. Intelligently written? Yes. Would I ever read it again? No. Although there were moments when I found myself smiling at the humour, generally I just found it creepy and very dull. It may be one of those books which you should read in your lifetime.... but I will not be picking it up again!
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on July 12, 2016
It was not what I was looking for. I hoped to see from the mind of a pedophile and the overall damage that was wrought by his hands, but instead found the excuses and reasoning for why his acts were justified, and how it could be allowed. The ambiguity was interesting, but not cathartic enough to satisfy.
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on April 10, 2015
I tried to read it, but could not get over the disturbing topic. The writing style is amazing and beautiful but unfortunately, I couldn't be open-minded enough to get through it. I'm keeping this on my shelf and I'll try to revisit it in a few years. I would love to read it and just absorb the wonderful words and writing style.
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on October 12, 2014
I found this book difficult to read for obvious reasons. Not only was the topic difficult for a mother of a teenage girl, I found the narrator unlikeable and untrustworthy such that I was missing the true story. I understand that was Nabokov's intention; however, the style did not suit my tastes whatsoever.
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on September 5, 2011
I will not deny that Vladimir Nabokov is a brilliant writer. Although I found his word play unimpressive, I could never imagine being so competent at a second language (even one I had been taught from childhood) that I could give such vivid and impassioned descriptions in it. However, Lolita was not something I wanted to read. Although I enjoyed a few anecdotes about minor characters, I found most of the book either dull, revolting, or some combination of the two. It is perhaps not the pedophilia that disgusts me so much as Humbert Humbert's complete possession and manipulation of his object and his willingness to continue to use her even when she is so unhappy that only the hope of some roadside attraction sustains her through the day. I can accept that a pedophile can really love his victim or nymphet, but I cannot believe that he would, if this love exists, allow her to live a miserable and hopeless existence that he creates with deception (for example, the reasons he gives to Lolita not to reveal the situation to anyone). Furthermore, as I said earlier, Lolita is simply dull. Humbert Humbert has no real personality, outside of being a pedophile, and Lolita never really appears as anything but an object. Their journeys, the Americana-lover's road trips across the country, take pages and pages to describe, without any intermittent interesting dialogue or significant plot development. Nabokov's command of the English language is masterful, but that was the only reason I could find to read Lolita.
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VINE VOICEon October 2, 2008
Nabokov is a genius. His mastery of prose is without peer. His words dance, they sing, they cavort.

I just wish he had written another story, instead of this miserably depressing tale of a crazy pedophile on a cross-country raping spree with a twelve year old girl.

I guess I am not one of the "wise, sensitive, and staunch people who understood my book" which Nabokov writes about in his condescending 1956 afterward.
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on June 21, 2016
Wonderful writing, disturbing story. NOT ABOUT LOVE, but about pedaphilic lust.
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