This book knocked my socks off, but I have to give some thought as to why. The story is tragic from beginning to end. And the ending is too ironic for...well...words. It's about a subject that makes one queasy. Yet, this book is such a celebration of language...languages...that I'm not sure how anyone who appreciates language can hate it despite the gritty subject matter. The book's structure is also incredibly crafted.
Nabokov, as has been said many times, was a genius. He was fluent in Russian, French, and English. English was not his native language. The book feels European to me, but the fluency of his English is astonishing. Far more sophisticated than most of his literary contemporaries. He obviously loved language and loved playing with it.
The multi-layered use of English...mixed with French -- Puns and word play and such sometimes made me forget I was reading about a hideous crime and made me burst out laughing. The child cried herself to sleep after being repeatedly raped. Yet, I laughed at some of the self-deprecating humor that Humbert Humbert used until I remembered that I was laughing at and with a man who was loathsome. Yet...he was still human and clearly loved Lolita. Or thought he did. Obsession not necessarily being love. Very unsettling to read and to become carried away with the words only to be brought up short...H.H. destroyed a child's life. She looked worn and had "lost her looks" by the age of seventeen.
I can only say, this is a masterpiece. And when I read it the next time, I want to read an annotated version. I missed much of the word play going on between the English and the French. There's so much more going on here. I've only touched the most obvious points.