Thoughts on: Lolita (Vladimir Nabokov)

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Lolita, Vladimir Nabokov

Lolita was not a light read, rather, it is the kind of book that touches your soul and makes you question the ways that other people see the world. Undoubtedly controversial, the novel encapsulates the twisted relationship between young Dolores and a much older man, Humbert Humbert.

While Humbert’s manipulative charm and egotistical nature barely compare to his heinous crimes including rape and murder, Nabokov presents the world through the complex lens of a villain. In truth, reading Lolita was like watching the world through the eyes of an outsider, a human that it not truly all there, and yet very much at the corners of society. Humbert wears his mask of normality exceptionally well. He relies on his powers of deception arguably to the point that he deceives himself, above all else, causing the reader to question everything about his perception of his step-daughter.

“She was Lola in slacks. She was Dolly at school. She was Dolores on the dotted line. But in my arms she was always Lolita.”

Without a doubt, Humbert is cold, manipulative and calculating. Humbert continuously victimises himself, dehumanising Lolita as simply a “nymphette” who sadistically seduces him. Even in the aftermath at the end of the novel, Humbert is still incapable of fully accepting the brutality of his actions and their consequences for Lolita. Like an innate disease, his self-pity escalates until he begs for Lolita to cross the final yards into his car and die with him.

It is as if Humbert is aware that he is only chasing a dream, and despite the inevitable fact their relationship will end eventually, he clings onto it the best he can. In the end, Humbert was not looking for Lolita’s love – he wanted her loyalty. He wanted to chase a dream.

“He broke my heart. You merely broke my life.”  

His hatred for Clare is of course, ironic, considering that Clare was Humbert’s darker shadow in the novel and committed the same crime. However, Clare never pretended to view his relationship with Lolita as anything more than it was; Clare had the ability to distance himself from the situation which Humbert envies. Even somebody as eloquently spoken as our narrator can be reduced to a man as shady as Clare, no matter how Humbert tries to distinguish himself as superior to his crimes. Therefore, Humbert’s motives include blaming Clare for taking his dream away and shattering it forever, no more is Dolores young or vulnerable enough to resume his dream. Essentially, Humbert would probably consider himself a tragic hero.

Nabokov’s language games are break-taking and entirely worthy of the making the book a classic. In fact, I would encourage this book to be read for its lyrical use of language alone. Nabokov masterfully blends Humbert’s self-inflicted pain and Lolita’s suffering through the absence of her voice.

Ultimately, I doubt that Humbert was trying to convince his readers or the jury of his lack of free will that lead him to his crimes. Instead, he was attempting and failing to convince himself that his actions were unpreventable and for a cause of love and not unprecedented selfishness.

My favourite extract:

“And this is the only immortality you and I may share, my Lolita.” (the final line.)

VERDICT: 5 STARS

Book Review: Divergent (Veronica Roth)

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This week, I wanted to share my thoughts about my most recent read: Divergent.

If you overlook the cringe of poorly developed teenage romance, a nonsensical premise, and one-dimensional characters, Divergent is one of the most enjoyable books you will ever read. The gripping training scenes, the shifts in setting and the pure development of a near-future Chicago is full-out insane, it’s impossible not to get invested by such an epic journey.

Granted, there are irritating elements in Roth’s writing style: the limited of character description to eyes and hair colour, repetitive emotional shifts (fear washes through me/sadness flushes in my eyes/emotion has an effect on my body) – and the fact that most of the characters have a very similar voice.

But I can’t help it.

Divergent is so intense that I don’t feel for one moment Roth is holding back. The exciting action scenes, the suspense and the world-building force me to proceed with the series. It’s probably the only time that the book, in my opinion, has better action and imagery than the movie (although at least the movie eliminates the majority of weak dialogue). I also love the fact that the novel is far darker during the initiation, many die along the way and the stakes are risen.

I can understand why people don’t like the novel especially considering the glaringly obvious inconsistencies about the premise – surely choosing anything other than the test result at the choosing ceremony would mean that the character is a divergent?

I’m probably in the minority that prefers Divergent to The Hunger Games, but in truth, I think Tris is far superior to Katniss. Tris left her faction, Tris went through vast character transformation physically and emotionally – from jumping off rooftops to climbing up a Ferris wheel. Although Tris’ conflicting emotions initially irritated me, they shape a more realistic character. I always thought that Katniss was indifferent to anything excluding herself and her family. She already had survival skills, she only cared about the rebel cause because of her loved ones rather than her witnessing injustice. Given the choice, I would argue that Katniss would choose to leave everything behind and enjoy a quiet life, while Tris would do whatever she could to help stop injustice.

Although admittedly, Tris is the only developed character in Divergent.

Four’s back story is the only interesting thing about him, Jeanine is much better in the movie, Caleb behaves like a small child and Eric – the only other interesting character – has a minor presence.

If you’re a fan of dystopian YA, I think you should definitely give this book a go, it’s a bit of a hit-or-miss. Divergent feels fantastically epic and explores the impact of teenage decisions, I felt as if I was entering the future and leaving reality behind. In my opinion, Divergent is one of the more successful novels of the genre and I look forward to pursuing the rest of the series.

My favourite extract:

“Peter would probably throw a party if I stopped breathing.’
‘Well,’ he says, ‘I would only go if there was cake.”

VERDICT: 4 STARS