Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
I would apologise for the title of my post, which treats the very serious topic of paedophilia light-heartedly, but this is the sort of mood that you have to be in to be able to read Lolita. The moment you start feeling ill or guilty, it’s no longer an interesting read. I avoided these cumbersome emotions quite simply because I am a teenage girl, and therefore able to understand Lolita, more than I could understand our pervy narrator. Besides, the book’s love affair with language is far more interesting than any love affair with young girls. Trust me, at 309 pages, you have plenty of time for moral reflection, but a book like this is tedious if you are not enjoying yourself.
Other than that short warning, I don’t want to put prospective readers off. Therefore, I recommend Penguin Modern Classics. This version of the notorious novel includes a note from the author himself, which should assuage any conscience that this is puerile sexual gratification (I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Lolita is purity itself compared to certain scenes in Fifty Shades of Grey, though I have admittedly not read the latter). It is instead a book to read, to enjoy and to get you thinking. First published 1959, it is not difficult to read, other than the downright academic terminology that Nabokov slips into every so often, and I believe that it is a rare person who understands every reference or allusion. For all that, try it. I can guarantee that you will most likely enjoy it more than you think.
I find it very uncomfortable to categorize this book as a ‘romance’, or ‘American’. It is technically about a romantic relationship, or several, if you include the beginning of the novel (and technically about rape, though neither term fits well). The author isn’t but, the book is technically American, since the whole world of the book is set there, and you are given quite the tour of the continent during a long road trip sequence and, therefore, Americanisms abound.
OK, so we have established that the book is about a paedophile, but beyond that, not many know what actually happens in Lolita. The blurb has this to say: