Saturday, July 31, 2010

Julia Reviews "Lolita" by Vladimir Nabokov

Title/Author: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
Publisher/Year Published: 1997 by Vintage International (first published 1955)
How I got this book: It wasn't actually a book, but an audiobook (from the library, of course)
Why I read this book: I saw the movie and was vehemently told that the book was extremely better
Rating: 4 stars

There are few things more confusing than being serenaded by the lovely voice of Jeremy Irons when the content is the diary of a pedophile.

I feel like most people know what Lolita is about, but if not the summary is it is the confessions of a man, Humbert Humbert, as he tells of his emotional and physical relationship with 12 year-old Dolores, aka Lolita, as she grows into adolescence. I can hear some of you scoffing already. What could make anyone want to read about such a disturbing topic?
You have to be an artist and a madman, a creature of infinite melancholy, with a bubble of hot poison in your loins and a super-voluptuous flame aglow in your subtle spine (oh, how you have to cringe and hide!), in order to discern at once, by ineffable signs—the slightly feline outline of a cheekbone, the slenderness of a downy limb, and other indices which despair and shame and tears of tenderness forbid me to tabulate—the deadly little demon among the wholesome children; she stands unrecognized by them and unconscious herself of her fantastic power.

The writing. It is beautifully written. You would never think that you could get caught up in the mind of such a sick person, but you do. You're not really rooting for him, per say, but I definitely understood him most of the time. The author sums this up in the foreward, "But how magically his singing violin can conjure up a tendresse, a compassion for Lolita that makes us entranced with the book while abhorring its author!"

I was very rarely taken out of the story, which is an unusual case for me with classics, but that may also have to do with Mr. Irons' performance. It was hard pressed to get me out of the car most nights, at least until I found a good stopping point. He voice embodies Humbert. It is like listening to a narrative movie, a production of a one man play.

If you're looking to tackle a book from the 1001 Books to Read Before You Die, Modern Library's 100 Best or just want to read a book from a different perspective, Lolita is for you.

And I strongly suggest you get the audiobook with Jeremy Irons. It completely enhanced the experience for me for the better I believe. Any time you can get a little more Iron's in your life, you must jump on it! Now to go watch The Lion King...

I give this book 4 stars for pure can't stop listening enjoyment.


  1. This was a great review. I think that a lot of people automatically dismiss Lolita due to the subject matter, but that really isn't the point of the novel. The prose and symbolism is incredibly complex which makes it a great read.

  2. I really loved this novel as well. Great review! I felt the same way about it!

  3. Lolita is one of my all time favorites. It's especially amazing considering English wasn't Nabokov's first language.

  4. English not being Nabokov's first language is something of a shock to me. I know it to be true, but the way he beautifully weaves sentences together astounds me. I would never be able to do the same in Chinese (my next most literate language)

  5. I have this audio-book too. Nothing like Jeremy Irons reading brilliant prose!!

  6. Hi! I just wanted to let you know that I've given you guys the Prolific Blogger Award on my blog.

  7. I have been almost finished with this book for several months. I just can't finish. I think my problem or issue is Humbert's detachment from what he's talking about. I love Nabokov's style, but Humbert keeps turning me off. I've got only a few chapters left, so I may as well finish by the end of the semester.

  8. I think the book takes on a different feel toward the end as Humbert's catharsis turns from Lotlita to revenge. I can see where you are coming from Lori, and I think I would be in the same position if it wasn't read to me.

  9. Great review! I've had this book sitting on my bookshelf for months! I think I've been to afraid of being grossed out by the story so I keep skipping over it. But I think I'll give it a try soon!

  10. The first time when I heard about the book was when I was in school, but never had a chance to read it through, albeit in bits and pieces from the school library collection. Now after so many years reading and examining one of toughest novels like Lolita was quiet interesting. To be able to say that for the sake of love if one is wanting to demolishing one's own set of values, morals and the stated norms of love that one grew up feeling comfortable in is, strictly speaking, something of a no-no. Needless to say, it was no less than a struggle to deal with what the novel has to offer me. Above all else, Lolita is a deeply felt and a profound novel dealing with the controversial subject of illicit or illegal love: of a middle-aged literature professor Humbert Humbert obsessed with the 12-year-old lady by name Dolores Haze.


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