[BOOK REVIEW] Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov is a book I’ve wanted to read for quite some time but what pushed me to finally do it is My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell coming out to the book scene as well as Putney by Sofka Zinovieff because they are a response to Lolita. I wanted to know what was so controversial about Lolita and then I found out.

I think we all know what Lolita is about but if not here’s the skinny – an older man called Humbert Humbert becomes infatued by a twelve/thirteen year old girl called Dolores Haze or Lolita. From the moment he sets eyes on her on his tenants garden he becomes obsessed with her beauty. What happens later is that Humbert Humbert in his pursuit to win Lolita over does many many things which set a chain of events. I feel like that’s quite a good non-spoilery, if-you-wish-to-know-little-about-the-book description.

I won’t go into length with this review because there’s a lot to go through so I’ll just feature some key points that I found interesting. Before going in I honestly had no idea what to expect because I had in mind that since it was written in 1955 it wouldn’t be that controversial but I was wrong. Having read the book I now get why the public reacted to it the way they did – it is a very controversial subject to write about [especially at that time]. I didn’t expect certain scenes to be described with such precision and depth e.g. sexual parts. I found this book to be very well written and I love how Nabokov made the character of Humbert Humbert somewhat real in a sense that you can see that Humbert is a well-educated man whose actions are so wrong. I feel like if this book were written now it would cause a different sort of reaction because nowadays people don’t shy away from writing the goriest, darkest things. I found the first part of the book to be most compelling but the second part was something I found to be very dry and uninteresting in a way. This will sound weird but I expected more from the story in a way. The ending was something I found to be quite meh. What can one say in the end – it’s an interesting read but definitely not for everyone.

My rating:

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Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov, also known by the pen name Vladimir Sirin, was a Russian-American novelist. Nabokov wrote his first nine novels in Russian, then rose to international prominence as a master English prose stylist. He also made significant contributions to lepidoptery, and had a big interest in chess problems.

Nabokov’s Lolita (1955) is frequently cited as his most important novel, and is at any rate his most widely known one, exhibiting the love of intricate wordplay and descriptive detail that characterized all his works.

Lolita was ranked fourth in the list of the Modern Library 100 Best Novels; Pale Fire (1962) was ranked 53rd on the same list, and his memoir, Speak, Memory (1951), was listed eighth on the publisher’s list of the 20th century’s greatest nonfiction. He was also a finalist for the National Book Award for Fiction seven times.

[BOOK REVIEW] Women by Mihail Sebastian transl. by Philip Ó Ceallaigh @OtherPress

Women follows Stefan Valeriu who has just finished his medical studies in Paris and who has decided to go to the Alps on a vacation. The reader follows Stefan’s life in which three very different women enter – some as lovers, some merely as, so called, subjects whom Stefan observes. The story is often told from the point of view of Stefan and through him we get a glimpse of divergent relationships.

What initially attracted me when it comes to Women was how the reader who embarks on the journey of reading this novel will experience many stories told by the same man. The stories presented to the reader are about a variety of things – love, passion, regret and most of all life. I especially enjoyed the feel that this novel has because I often read more ‘modern’ fiction and I feel like people [including me] should go back to classics at one point just to cleanse their palette. Women by Mihail Sebastian was such a refreshing read – from the writing to the wonderful translation by Philip Ó Ceallaigh – which I thoroughly enjoyed reading. As I’ve said earlier the novel weaves many themes [empathy, passion etc] and that’s exactly what I found most enjoyable as well as fascinating. The writing is so gorgeous and I found many wonderful quotes about different things that this novel discusses. I especially enjoyed the chapter narrated by/titled Maria as well as the last chapter titled Arabela. The last chapter although short amazed me by how much it actually had in itself – especially the transition from having something in terms of wealth to having nothing and making something out of a bad situation.

‘It terrifies me to think that something can be completely obliterated, that a thing or a person or a feeling or even just something familiar can disappear overnight.’

Women by Mihail Sebastian is truly a rediscovered classic because it offers a gorgeous glimpse of 1930s life and one man’s take on different women who passed through his.

I would like to thank the publisher Other Press for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. All opinions written here are my own and weren’t influenced by the fact that I got this book for free from the publisher.

My rating:

Add ‘Women‘ to your TBR:  

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*Purchase ‘Women‘ with free international delivery here: 

**I am in no way compensated by these sites. I am simply sharing it so people can find this book easier.

Mihail Sebastian was born in Romania in 1907 as Iosif Mendel Hechter. He worked as a lawyer and writer until anti-Semitic legislation forced him to abandon his public career. Having survived the war and the Holocaust, he was killed in a road accident in early 1945 as he was crossing the street to teach his first class. His long-lost diary, Journal 1935-1944: The Fascist Years, was published to great acclaim in the late 1990s. His novel For Two Thousand Years was published in English in 2016.