Lolita was the second book selected by my public library for their book club's Banned Books Series. I have to admit I had no idea what this book was about when I started reading it. I had read that it's one of the world's "most beautiful love stories." And I knew it was a bit illicit because of Reading Lolita in Tehran (another book I still have to read). But I had no idea it was about a pedophile who essentially kidnaps his stepdaughter and keeps her under his thumb until she's old enough and smart enough to figure out how to escape.
As I began reading this book I fully understood why some people had asked that this book be banned. After all, it kind of reads like a how-to book on pedophilia. But when the subject came up at book club, I found myself defending the book, saying that if someone read this book and thought it condoned their own behavior or it "inspired" them to do something of this sort, well they were likely to have done it anyway. I said this because I saw the reactions of the others who had read this book and all of us, whether we thought the writing was beautiful or the story interesting, were disgusted with the main character and judged him accordingly. This book isn't going to turn anybody into a pedophile who doesn't already entertain such thoughts.
The book itself is beautifully written. In the first part when Humbert Humbert is falling in love with Lolita, I was quite taken by his descriptions of her ... until I remembered that he was talking about a 12-year-old girl. I also really enjoyed the French phrases sprinkled throughout the book. I felt like each one was a little French quiz for me, especially because he offers no translation like many books do today. His descriptions of living in France and going to the Mediterranean made me think of my own time there, which is always a fun thing.
Aside from all of that though the book is really interesting and it raises a lot of questions about love and family. It also shows the inner workings (albeit fictional) of a truly deranged person and how one is able to justify what he is doing despite all evidence that it is wrong. I also thought it was quite interesting - and fitting - that Humbert Humbert often befriended other sexual deviants. I think that is probably true of that type of person in the real world.
This book drags a little in the middle and it was not an easy book to read because there are many historical and literary references throughout the text, along with the aforementioned untranslated French phrases (some Latin and German as well), so I highly recommend getting the annotated version. I didn't know there was an annotated version until I went to the book club meeting and now I feel like I need to read it all over again so I can get the inside jokes that some of the others understood better than I did.