Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Review: Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

I have finally, finally, FINALLY finished reading Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. My F2F (face-to-face) book club picked this book for its January selection. I've been struggling with it ever since. Blech.

As most of you probably know, Lolita is about a middle-aged man, named Humbert Humbert, who enters into an affair with his 12-year-old stepdaughter, Dolores Haze. At no point did Nabokov try to make Humbert a likable, sympathetic character (which is probably good because I'm not really sure what he could have done to redeem himself). Nope, HH is just an awful, narcissistic, icky bore. And herein lies my problem with the book.

I've heard Lolita described as Nabokov's love affair with the English language. And that may be true. The writing is beautiful. But I like to read books with characters that I can love (or at least like) and can root for. I also like a good story. And if that same book has some great writing, wonderfully tangible descriptions, and turns of phrase that make me laugh (or sigh, or have some other visceral reaction) then that book will end up on my "I love it" shelf for sure. But I do not enjoy reading about characters I cannot connect with. And I absolutely cannot connect with Humbert Humbert.

But I do like Nabokov's writing. So I'm looking for another one of his books. Maybe his memoir, Speak, Memory. Or maybe Despair or some of his short stories. Has anyone read any of Nabokov's other books? Did you like it? Did it have characters you could relate to? If so, I'd love to hear about it.

As for Lolita, I'd have to give it 1 rose -- not my cuppa' tea.


Becca said...

I have not read this or seen the movie. It is my feeling that people either think it is great or don't think much of it at all. Not a lot of hanging out in the middle.

Anonymous said...

Nabokov and I...we just don't get along. In my freshman EComp class, we had to read "Speak, Memory." Definitely one of the WORST experiences reading I've ever had. Ugh.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry you couldn't find more to like about this. I loved it and love the movie with Dominique Swain s Lolita. Hopefully you will like your next book group read more.

Kim L said...

This one was a DNF for me... Did Not Finish. Didn't like the characters, didn't enjoy the plot, didn't like the writing all that much.

Kristi said...

Rebecca - I think you're right. At least that's how it seemed when my book group got together and talked about it. Made for a great discussion, though.

Starrypurplehaze & Kim L - glad to see I'm not the only one ;o).

Rhinoa - Maybe I should try the movie. And, I'm happy to say that I just finished the next book club pick - Girl with a Dragon Tattoo - and loved it! ;o)

Thanks for stopping by, everyone!