Many books are read for the pleasure of their prose – ‘Rebecca’ and ‘Villette” spring to mind here. Those novels, far from being plot-driven, entice the audience with the delights of word choice, vivid description and an intimacy between the protagonist and his/her observer.
Lolita tries to include itself in this category but, in my opinion, drastically falls short. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed parts of the book and found the writing fascinating, if not entirely enjoyable. But after the unease about the taboo subject of underage sexual activity wore off, I found myself getting bored. It just seemed labourious: Humbert and the underage Lolita travelling aimlessly from place to place across America with no pace or magnetic narrative to spur me on.
After the drama that leaves Humbert the primary guardian of our young nymphet, the whole book seems to lose it’s energy. I felt like Nabokov could have removed a massive chunk from the middle of the story and still got his point across (whatever it was).
I understand why it’s notorious; it’s controversial because Humbert is disgusting. We are invited to sit in his mind and watch a pervert at work. But apart from ticking it off the bucket list, I didn’t get much out of it.