I recently read – and loved – Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov. When it came to reviewing it on Goodreads however, I found myself feeling stumped. There was no denying that the skill of the writing, the effectiveness of the techniques used and the impact of the story were amongst the best I’ve read, but that’s not to say it was necessarily always an ‘enjoyable’ read.
A book that centres around a paedophile is always going to be uncomfortable to consume, no matter how charismatic he may be. The dynamic between Humbert and Lolita is fantastically realised, with the power play and sickeningly dysfunctional relationship very deliberately sending chills down the readers’ spines and holding us at a distance. This inability to be swept up in the story is where my difficulty in choosing a star rating came from however. Should I give it the five stars I felt it deserved for the sheer talent necessary to have written it, or knock a star off because it left me feeling cold at times (albeit deliberately so)?
Ultimately I am well aware that the actual rating you give a book matters not a jot; it’s what it makes you think and feel that really count, and in that respect, Lolita is probably one of the best books I’ve ever read, even if not the most enjoyable. It was this that got me thinking, what do we (or should we) give more merit to when judging a book; the skill of the achievement or the pleasure of the reading experience?
I’d love to chat about it in the comments and know what you give more weight to.
*Just for the record, I ended up giving Lolita four stars, but also added it to my ‘favourites’ shelf. I felt that was a fair compromise. You can read my full review here if you would like.*