Going into this book, I knew of the general controversy surrounding it, but wasn’t really familiar with the specific plot details. But I picked it up in a used book store on a whim because I was overdue for a classic, and I have a thing for Russian authors and literature (although I was disappointed that this didn’t actually take place IN Russia).
I’m sure most people know the general gist of this book – middle aged man falls in love with a young girl. And ya, it’s unsettling. Humbert is smitten with Lolita (a “nymphet”), and marries her mother to become close to her. The story follows their relationship as they grow closer and they eventually run away together, posing as father and daughter to avoid suspicion.
I have a fairly high tolerance for disturbing content, so I wasn’t shocked by much of it. What I really found surprising was my own reaction to Humbert as a character. At times as he described Lolita, I found myself sympathetic to his longing and heartache and almost rooting for it to work out. If you could temporarily forget how old she was, it was easy to see it as a love story. And then I remembered that she was a child, and that this was illegal and exploitive and so so wrong. In hindsight I should have made a bookmark that just said “SHE IS 12!!” in bold capital letters.
All that to say, it’s a testament to Nabokov’s writing that he can make a pedophile seem like a sympathetic character. And I’m glad that the book is over. 🙂