domingo, 24 de junho de 2012

Thorn Birds - Colleen McCullough

There is one word for this book: Realism. It could be your life, it could have happened to anyone what the writer narrates. 
By reading the book you know that it HAD to be written by a woman - no man in his right mind could have ever touched so well upon what goes inside a woman's head. How she loves, suffers, accepts, rebels and in the end drops and leaves it all for love and maternity. 
And yet the author entered just as well into the man's mind - power, work, reputation, being put on a pedestal but deeply yearning and wondering what is beyond that. Man wanting so bad to be God. And the women just accepting it all. 
It is a long book which begins with the hard life of a young woman with many, many children named Fee. Her life is all suffering and no joy from the very first page until the end. Next comes one of the main characters: her daughter, Meggie who falls in love with the other main character, Father Ralph de Bricassart - the young ambitious priest who lives a forever fling with her yet exchanges her love for Rome, money and a name of fame. Next comes Justine, Meggie's young spirited wild one daughter and her brother, Dane. 
The book is filled with amazing descriptions of Australia's landscapes, life at the farm and the life of the women of three generations. You get a feel for the open spaces, the loneliness, the rugged beauty, and the dangers of the region.
What makes this book so enthralling is how it became so scandalous and screams out against the Catholic church. Especially for the time it was written the sex scenes were unheard of - especially when it came to a priest and a girl almost twenty years his junior - and all of this shows how human we all are; yep even Catholic Priests. Father Ralph was nothing more than a human man who allows himself to be tempted. And Meggie who feels no guilt and fears no god to tempt him. 
It is a long book but one that keeps you going. New characters are woven throughout the book to keep its realness and you find yourself entering, relating, and living their lives. 

Wikipedia on "Thorn Birds":

The Thorn Birds is a 1977 best-selling novel by Colleen McCullough, an Australian author.
In 1983 it was adapted as a television mini-series that, during its television run 27–30 March, became the United States' second highest rated mini-series of all time behind Roots; both series were produced by television veteran David L. Wolper.
Set primarily on Drogheda, a fictional sheep station in the Australian outback, the story focuses on the Cleary family and spans the years 1915 to 1969.


The epic begins with Meghann "Meggie" Cleary, a four-year-old girl living in New Zealand in the early twentieth century, the only daughter of Paddy, an Irish farm labourer, and Fee, his harassed but aristocratic wife. Although Meggie is a beautiful child with curly red-gold hair, she receives little coddling and must struggle to hold her own against her numerous older brothers. Of these brothers, her favourite is the eldest, Frank, a rebellious young man who is unwillingly preparing himself for the blacksmith's trade. He is much shorter than his brothers, but very strong; also, unlike the other Clearys, he has black hair and eyes.
Paddy is poor, but has a wealthy sister, Mary Carson, who lives in Australia on an enormous sheep station called Drogheda. One day, Paddy receives a letter from Mary offering him a job on her estate. He accepts, and the whole family moves to the Outback.
Here Meggie meets Ralph de Bricassart, a young, capable, and ambitious priest who, as punishment for insulting a bishop, has been relegated to a remote parish in the town of Gillanbone, near Drogheda. Ralph has befriended Mary, hoping a hefty enough bequest from her to the Catholic church might liberate him from his exile. Ralph is strikingly handsome; "a beautiful man"; and Mary, who doesn't bother to conceal her desire for him, often goes to great lengths to see if he can be induced to break his vows. Ralph blandly shrugs off these attentions and continues his visits. Meanwhile, he cares for all the Clearys and soon learns to cherish beautiful but forlorn little Meggie. Meggie, in return, makes Ralph the centre of her life.
Frank's relationship with his father, Paddy, has never been peaceful. The two vie for Fee's attention, and Frank resents the many pregnancies Paddy makes her endure. One day, after Fee, now in her forties, reveals she is again pregnant, the two men quarrel violently and Paddy blurts out the truth about Frank: he is not Paddy's son. Long ago, Fee had been the adored only daughter of a prominent citizen. Then, she had an affair with a married politician, and the result, Frank,was already eighteen months old when her mortified father married her off to Paddy. Because he resembles her lost love, Fee has always loved Frank more than her other children. To the sorrow of Meggie and Fee, when Frank learns that Paddy is not his father, he runs away to become a boxer. Fee later gives birth to twin boys, James and Patrick (Jims and Patsy), but shows little interest in them. Shortly afterward, Meggie's beloved little brother, Hal, dies.
With Frank gone and Hal dead, Meggie clings to Ralph more than ever. This goes largely unnoticed because Ralph has now been her mentor for several years; however, as she ripens into womanhood, some begin to question their close relationship, including Ralph and Meggie themselves. Mary Carson has also noticed their changing relationship, and from motives of jealousy mingled with Machiavellian cruelty, she devises a plan to separate Ralph from Meggie by tempting him with his heart's desire: a high place in the Church hierarchy. Although her will of record leaves the bulk of her estate to Paddy, she quietly writes a new one, making the Roman Catholic Church the main beneficiary and Ralph theexecutor.
In the new will, the true magnitude of Mary's wealth is finally revealed. Drogheda is not the centre of her fortune as Ralph and Paddy have long believed but is merely a "hobby", a diversion from her true financial interests. Mary's wealth is derived from a vast multi-national financial empire worth over thirteen million Pounds (about A$200 million in modern terms). The sheer size of Mary's bequest will virtually guarantee Ralph's rapid rise in the church. She also makes sure that after she dies only Ralph, at first, will know of the new will — forcing him to choose between Meggie and his own ambition. She also provides for her disinherited brother, promising him and all his grandchildren a home on Drogheda as long as any of them live.
At Mary's seventy-second birthday party, Ralph goes to great lengths to avoid Meggie, now seventeen and dressed in a beautiful rose-pink evening gown; later, he explains that others might not see his attention as innocent. Mary dies in the night. Ralph duly learns of the new will. He sees at once the subtle genius of Mary's plan and, although he weeps and calls her "a disgusting old spider" he takes the new will to her lawyer without delay. The lawyer, scandalised, urges Ralph to destroy the will, but to no avail. The bequest of thirteen million pounds works its expected magic, and Ralph soon leaves to begin his rapid advance in the Church.
Before he leaves, Meggie confesses her love for him; after the birthday party, Ralph finds her crying in the family cemetery and they share a passionate kiss, but Ralph refuses her because of his duties as a priest and begs Meggie to find someone to love and marry.
The Clearys learn that Frank has been convicted of murder after killing someone in a fight. He spends three decades in prison.
Paddy and his son Stuart are killed; Paddy dies in a lightning fire, and Stu is killed by a wild boar shortly after finding his father's body. Meanwhile, Ralph, unaware of Paddy and Stu's deaths, is on his way to Drogheda and suffers minor injuries when his plane bogs in the mud. As Meggie tends his wounds, she tries to seduce him and is rebuffed. Ralph remains at Drogheda only long enough to conduct the funerals.
Three years later, a new ranch worker named Luke O'Neill begins to court Meggie. Although his motives are more mercenary than romantic, she marries him because he looks a little bit like Ralph, but mainly because he is not Catholic and wants little to do with religion-her own way of getting back at Ralph. She soon realises her mistake. After a brief honeymoon, Luke, a skinflint who regards women as sex objects and prefers the company of men, finds Meggie a live-in job with a kindly couple, the Muellers, and leaves to join a gang of itinerant sugarcane cutters in North Queensland. Before he leaves, he appropriates all Meggie's savings and arranges to have her wages paid directly to him. He tells her he's saving money to buy a homestead; however, he quickly becomes obsessed with the competitive toil of cane-cutting and has no real intention of giving it up. Hoping to change Luke's ambition and settle him down, Meggie deliberately thwarts his usual contraception and bears Luke a red-haired daughter, Justine. The new baby, however, makes little impression on Luke.
Father Ralph visits Meggie during her difficult labour; he has come to say goodbye, as he is leaving Australia for Rome. He sees Meggie's unhappiness for himself, and pities her. Justine proves to be a fractious baby, so the Muellers send Meggie to an isolated island resort for a rest. Father Ralph returns to Australia, learns of Meggie's whereabouts from Anne Mueller, and joins her for several days. There, at last, the lovers consummate their passion, and Ralph realises that despite his ambition to be the perfect priest, his desire for Meggie makes him a man like other men. Father Ralph returns to the Church, and Meggie, pregnant with Ralph's child, decides to separate from Luke. She tells Luke what she really thinks of him, and returns to Drogheda, leaving him to his cane-cutting.
Back home, she gives birth to a beautiful boy whom she names Dane. Fee, who has had experience in such matters, notices Dane's resemblance to Ralph as soon as he is born. The relationship between Meggie and Fee takes a turn for the better. Justine grows into an independent, keenly intelligent girl who loves her brother dearly; however, she has little use for anyone else, and calmly rebuffs Meggie's overtures of motherly affection.
None of Meggie's other surviving brothers ever marry, and Drogheda gradually becomes a place filled with old people.
Ralph visits Drogheda after a long absence and meets Dane for the first time; and although he finds himself strangely drawn to the boy, he fails to recognize that they are father and son. Dane grows up and decides, to Meggie's dismay, to become a priest. Fee tells Meggie that what she stole from God, she must now give back. Justine, meanwhile, decides to become an actress and leaves Australia to seek her dream in England. Ralph, now a Cardinal, becomes a mentor to Dane, but still blinds himself to the fact that the young man is his own son. Dane is also unaware of their true relationship. Ralph takes great care of him, and because of their resemblance people mistake them for uncle and nephew. Ralph and Dane encourage the rumour. Justine and her brother remain close, although he is often shocked at her sexual adventures and free-wheeling lifestyle. She befriends Rainer Hartheim, a German politician who is a great friend of both Dane and Ralph's-- unbeknownst to her, he falls deeply in love with her. Their friendship becomes the most important in her life, and is on the verge of becoming something more when tragedy strikes.
Dane, who has just become a priest, is vacationing in Greece. While there, he goes swimming one day and dies while rescuing two women from a dangerous current. Meggie reveals before Dane's funeral that Dane is Ralph's son. Ralph dies in Meggie's arms after the funeral.
Justine breaks off all communications with Rainer and falls into a depressed, hum-drum existence. Eventually, they renew their acquaintance on strictly platonic terms, until Rainer visits Drogheda alone in order to urge Meggie to help him pursue Justine's hand in marriage.
Justine, now the sole surviving grandchild of Fee and Paddy Cleary, finally accepts her true feelings for Rainer. They marry, but have no plans to live on Drogheda.
The book's title refers to a mythical bird that searches for thorn trees from the day it is hatched. When it finds the perfect thorn, it impales itself, and sings the most beautiful song ever heard as it dies.

[edit]List of characters

  • Meghann "Meggie" Cleary — The central character, the only daughter in a large family of sons. The novel takes her from early childhood to old age.
  • Father Ralph de Bricassart — Meggie's true love, a handsome Irish Catholic priest.
  • Padraic "Paddy" Cleary — Meggie's father, a kind and simple labouring Irishman.
  • Fiona "Fee" Armstrong Cleary — Paddy's wife and Meggie's mother, an aristocratic woman who has come down in the world.
  • Francis "Frank" Armstrong Cleary — Meggie's eldest brother, Fee's illegitimate first son. A favourite with Meggie and Fee both.
  • Mary Elizabeth Cleary Carson — Paddy's immensely wealthy older sister; Father Ralph's benefactor; owner of Drogheda.
  • Luke O'Neill — Meggie's husband during an unhappy three-year marriage; father of Justine.
  • Dane O'Neill — Son of Meggie and Ralph, Meggie's pride and joy, drowned in Greece at the age of twenty-six.
  • Justine O'Neill — Daughter of Meggie and Luke, an intelligent, independent girl. At the end, she is the only surviving grandchild of Paddy and Fee Cleary.
  • Luddie and Anne Mueller — Meggie's employers during her marriage to Luke. They become lifelong friends.
  • Bob, Jack, and Hughie Cleary — Meggie's older brothers. They all resemble Paddy and live out their days, unmarried, on Drogheda.
  • Stuart "Stu" Cleary — A quiet, kindly boy who resembles his mother and is closest to Meggie in age.
  • Harold "Hal" Cleary — Meggie's cherished baby brother. He dies when he's four years old.
  • James and Patrick "Jims and Patsy" Cleary — Twin boys, Meggie's youngest brothers.
  • Rainer "Rain" Moerling Hartheim — Friend of Ralph and eventually Dane. Member of the West German Parliament and eventual husband of Justine.
  • Archbishop (later Cardinal) Vittorio di Contini-Verchese — Ralph's mentor, friend to Rainer and Dane.

sexta-feira, 22 de junho de 2012

The Help - Kathryn Stockett

These last two weeks I have come to a conclusion: life is pointless. 
We wake up everyday, work, study, marry, have kids, die. 
Few people in this world can attest differently. And I would say that after reading this book I felt like as if I wanted to be one of those people. One of those people who actually did something more than the five items I've just listed above. 
In this book simple, everyday women without glorious lives, fancy degrees or impressive stories to tell did something impressive: they opened their mouths, they got together, they fought against and for something, they told their stories which impressed all of those near and far them. 
It is a simple story, simple wording and yet that speaks a truth so deep that it automatically wakes you up. Strong women. Brave women. Women that didn't shy against the rules and dictatorship of their days and put their lives in risk to see something change. Be it for good, be it for bad. There had to be change!
And yet it is a light story, one that you take pleasure in reading, skip away through its pages, flip your fingers through its pages and laugh aloud as you read Mrs. Hilly eating Minny's shit pie made especially for her!!! 


The Help is a 2009 novel by American author Kathryn Stockett. The story is about African American maids working in white households in Jackson,Mississippi, during the early 1960s. A USA Today article called it one of 2009's "summer sleeper hits".[1] An early review in The New York Times notes Stockett's "affection and intimacy buried beneath even the most seemingly impersonal household connections" and says the book is a "button-pushing, soon to be wildly popular novel".[2] The Atlanta Journal-Constitution said of the book, "This heartbreaking story is a stunning début from a gifted talent".[3]
The novel is Stockett's first. It took her five years to complete and was rejected by 60 literary agents before agent Susan Ramer agreed to represent Stockett.[4][5] The Help has since been published in 35 countries and three languages.[6] As of August 2011, it has sold five million copies and has spent more than 100 weeks on The New York Times Best Seller list.[7][8]
The Help'audiobook version is narrated by Jenna Lamia, Bahni Turpin, Octavia Spencer, and Cassandra Campbell. Spencer was Stockett's original inspiration for the character of Minny, and also plays her in the film adaptation.[4]

[edit]The Help is set in the early 1960s in Jackson, Mississippi, and told primarily from the first-person perspectives of three women: Aibileen, Minny, and Skeeter. Aibileen is an African-American maid who cleans houses and cares for the young children of various white families. Her first job since her own 24-year-old son died from an accident on his job is tending the Leefolt household and caring for their toddler, Mae Mobley. Minny is Aibileen's confrontational friend who frequently tells her employers what she thinks of them, resulting in having been fired from nineteen jobs. Minny's most recent employer was Mrs. Walters, mother of Hilly Holbrook. Hilly is the social leader of the community, and head of the Junior League. She is the nemesis of all three main characters.Plot summary

Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan is the daughter of a prominent white family whose cotton farm employs many African-Americans in the fields, as well as in the household. Skeeter has just finished college and comes home with dreams of becoming a writer. Her mother's dream is for Skeeter to get married. Skeeter frequently wonders about the sudden disappearance of Constantine, the maid who raised her. She had been writing to Skeeter while she was away at college and her last letter promised a surprise upon her homecoming. Skeeter's family tells her that Constantine abruptly quit, then went to live with relatives in Chicago. Skeeter does not believe that Constantine would just leave and continually pursues anyone she thinks has information about her to come forth, but no one will discuss the former maid.
The life that Constantine led while being the help to the Phelan family leads Skeeter to the realization that her friends' maids are treated very differently from how the white employers are treated. She decides (with the assistance of a publisher) that she wants to reveal the truth about being a colored maid in Mississippi. Skeeter struggles to communicate with the maids and gain their trust. The dangers of undertaking writing a book about African-Americans speaking out in the South during the early '60s hover constantly over the three women.
Racial issues of overcoming long-standing barriers in customs and laws are experienced by all of the characters. The lives and morals of Southern socialites are also explored.


  • Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan - Recent graduate of the University of Mississippi, has returned to her hometown of Jackson, Mississippi, to find a job and find herself. This leaves her open to seeing her hometown's inequitable treatment of the black domestics, primarily the female maids in the employ of her friends. Skeeter both admires and fears disappointing her mother and her friend Hilly, yet she pursues completing a manuscript called Help[9] with primary assistance from Aibileen, her friend's maid. She also seeks the reason her beloved maid Constantine abruptly left her family's employ.
  • Aibileen Clark - A maid and nanny in Jackson, Mississippi. Aibileen is the first narrator, a middle-aged African American employed by Skeeter's friend Elizabeth Leefolt. Although demure and shy, Aibileen is introspective, thoughtful and strong and writes down her thoughts at night. Her son died before the novel begins and his death leaves a bitterness within her which spurs her to recount to Skeeter her memories and thoughts. Their shared intention is to help change the embedded Racism of Mississippi.
  • Minny Jackson - Aibileen's friend, and a maid who is unable to keep employment because of her bossy demeanor and sharp tongue, Minny's sassy mouth has frequently gotten her into trouble. After she loses her job with Miss Walters (Hilly's mother), Aibileen helps her land another one with Celia Foote, who is considered white trash and is shunned by sorority sisters and socialites like Hilly and Elizabeth. Minny is married with five children and a sixth on the way.
  • Hilly Holbrook - Childhood friend of Skeeter and Elizabeth, the president of the Junior League in Jackson, Mississippi. Roomed with Skeeter at Ole Miss for two years, dropped out to get married. Her husband is running for the senate, and Hilly tries to push through a sanitation initiative so that all the white homeowners have a separate bathroom (outside, like an outhouse) for the black domestics. Hilly is a woman who enjoys controlling others and striking fear into those who dare oppose her. When Skeeter begins working with the maids and subsequently has The Help published, she runs afoul of Hilly.
  • Celia Foote - Newest resident of Jackson, Mississippi, hires Minny because she herself cannot cook. Initially Celia tries to hide Minny's presence from her husband, Johnny Foote. Celia has suffered multiple miscarriages, also hidden from her husband. However, Celia is caring and empathetic towards those she meets such as Minny.
  • Elizabeth Leefolt - employer of Aibileen, best friends with Hilly and Skeeter. Elizabeth is easily led by Hilly. She's also unable to be an affectionate mother to her daughter Mae Mobley, and so Aibileen becomes the child's primary carer, teacher and surrogate mother. Has a child named Ross later in the novel. Aibileen calls him Li'l Man.
  • Charlotte Phelan - Skeeter's demanding, overbearing mother. She has been diagnosed with cancer, but tells Skeeter she has "chosen not to die". Skeeter has never been able to live up to her mother's ideal of how she should look and behave. Their relationship is a tenuous one. Charlotte is concerned with Skeeter being the proper lady, while Skeeter longs to be anything but.
  • Stuart Whitworth - Hilly sets Skeeter up on a blind date with Stuart, a senator's son. While Stuart is handsome, charming, and appears to be smitten with Skeeter (after a disastrous blind date), when he learns of her involvement with the maids' stories, he immediately takes back his engagement ring.
  • Mae Mobley Leefolt - Toddler watched daily by Aibileen and one of Elizabeth Leefolt's two children. Because Mae's mother is unable and unwilling to devote time and attention to her, the child turns to Aibileen, who treats her with tenderness and love. When the novel begins Mae is two years old. By the time the novel ends, Mae is five and in school, old enough to beg Aibileen to stay, after Elizabeth Leefolt fires the maid at Hilly's insistence.
  • Leroy Jackson - Minny's husband. He is abusive toward her and frequently drunk. He is fired from his job when Minny's involvement in the book is suspected.
  • Constantine Bates - Skeeter's beloved childhood maid. Constantine's inexplicable departure from the Phelan household, while Skeeter is away at college, causes Skeeter to confront her mother and triggers her desire to explore the other maids' feelings, thus ultimately leading to her writing The Help.
  • Elaine Stein - Harper & Row Publishing house editor, "Missus Stein" as she's referred to by Skeeter in the book. Inspires Skeeter to write this book.


Ida E. Jones, the national director of the Association of Black Women Historians, released an open statement criticizing The Help in An Open Statement to the Fans of The Help. The letter stated that "[d]espite efforts to market the book and the film as a progressive story of triumph over racial injustice, The Help distorts, ignores, and trivializes the experiences of black domestic workers". The group of scholars accused both the book and the film of insensitive portrayals of African American Vernacular English, a nearly uniform depiction of black men as cruel or absent, and a lack of attention given to the sexual harassment that many black women endured in their white employers’ homes. Jones concluded by saying that "The Association of Black Women Historians finds it unacceptable for either this book or this film to strip black women’s lives of historical accuracy for the sake of entertainment."[10] Contrary to Ms. Jones' criticism, the book does briefly mention sexual assaults against two of the maids: "Angry stories come out, of white men who've tried to touch them. Winnie said she was forced over and over. Cleontine said she fought until his face bled and he never tried again." [11]

quinta-feira, 21 de junho de 2012

Lolita - Vladimir Nabokov

For a famous classic it wasn't as much as I expected - but then again, there was my mistake - expect too much from it. When you nothing expect you much gain. 
Nevertheless in my personal opinion I would say that it isn't a pornographic book at all but the ramblings of a  seriously sexually (and mentally) distraught man. It is the entering of Humbert Humbert's thoughts, psychotic dream of marrying and living with Lolita until the end of his days, it is the intrusion on his own life as a fugitive,  the explaining and the reason of doing what he did, what went inside his head. 
While I was reading it I thought it got pretty boring at times, he makes himself too much of a victim, repeats too much. But the beauty of Lolita is when you finish reading the book and it all comes to you at once. What comes? the feelings. You dont know whether you despise perverted Humbert Humbert, you hate Lolita for leaving him and making him suffer so much - or pity him and his incestuous ways of being and reel at the thought of Lolita and all the eroticism she gave and withheld from him. There are just too many feelings to feel, and even more which can't be put on paper. 
I guess that is what makes Lolita, It is the hidden, mysterious, shameful, and yet there are no rights or wrongs. It is all sinful and all accepted in his head. No wonder it became a classic. 

WIKI on "Lolita":

Lolita is a novel by Vladimir Nabokov, written in English and published in 1955 in Paris and 1958 in New York. It was later translated by its Russian-native author into Russian. The novel is notable for its controversial subject: the protagonist and unreliable narrator, middle-aged literature professor Humbert Humbert, is obsessed with the 12-year-old Dolores Haze, with whom he becomes sexually involved after he becomes her stepfather. His private nickname for Dolores is Lolita.
The book is also notable for its writing style. The narrative is highly subjective as Humbert draws on his fragmented memories, employing a sophisticated prose style, while attempting to gain the reader's sympathy through his sincerity and melancholy, although near the end of the story Humbert refers to himself as a "maniac" who "deprived" Dolores "of her childhood", and he shortly thereafter states "the most miserable of family lives was better than the parody of incest" in which they were involved.
After its publication, Lolita attained a classic status, becoming one of the best-known and most controversial examples of 20th century literature. The name "Lolita" has entered pop culture to describe a sexually precocious girl. The novel was adapted to film by Stanley Kubrick in 1962, and again in 1997by Adrian Lyne. It has also been adapted several times for stage and has been the subject of two operas, two ballets, and an acclaimed but failed Broadway musical.
Lolita is included on Time's list of the 100 best English-language novels from 1923 to 2005. It is fourth on the Modern Library's 1998 list of the 100 Best Novels of the 20th century. It was also included as one of The 100 Best Books of All Time.


Humbert Humbert, a literary scholar, has harbored a long-time obsession with young girls, or "nymphets". He suggests that this was caused by the premature death of a childhood sweetheart, Annabel Leigh. After an unsuccessful marriage, Humbert moves to the small New England town of Ramsdale to write. He rents a room in the house of Charlotte Haze, a widow. While Charlotte tours him around the house, Humbert meets her 12-year-old daughter, Dolores—or Lolita—with whom he immediately becomes infatuated, partly due to her uncanny resemblance to Annabel. Humbert stays at the house only to remain near her. While he is obsessed with Lolita, he disdains her crassness and preoccupation with contemporary American popular culture, such as teen movies and comic books.Plot summary

While Lolita is away at summer camp, Charlotte, who has fallen in love with Humbert, tells him that he must either marry her or move out. Humbert agrees to marry Charlotte in order to continue living near Lolita. Charlotte is oblivious to Humbert's distaste for her, as well as his lust for Lolita, until she reads his diary. Upon learning of Humbert's true feelings and intentions, Charlotte plans to flee with Lolita and threatens to expose Humbert as a "detestable, abominable, criminal fraud." Fate intervenes on Humbert's behalf, however; as she runs across the street in a state of shock, Charlotte is struck and killed by a passing car.
Humbert picks Lolita up from camp, pretending that Charlotte has been hospitalized. Rather than return to Charlotte's home, Humbert takes Lolita to a hotel, where he gives her sleeping pills. As he waits for the pills to take effect, he wanders through the hotel and meets a man who seems to know who he is. Humbert excuses himself from the strange conversation and returns to the room. There, he attempts to molest Lolita but finds that the sedative is too mild. Instead, she initiates sex the next morning, having slept with a boy at camp. Later, Humbert reveals to Lolita that Charlotte is dead, giving her no choice but to accept her stepfather into her life on his terms or face foster care.
Lolita and Humbert drive around the country, moving from state to state and motel to motel. Humbert sees the necessity of maintaining a common base of guilt to keep their relations secret, and wants denial to become second nature for Lolita; he tells her if he is arrested, she will become a ward of the state and lose all her clothes and belongings. He also bribes her for sexual favors, though he knows that she does not reciprocate his love and shares none of his interests. After a year touring North America, the two settle down in another New England town, where Lolita is enrolled in a girls school. Humbert becomes very possessive and strict, forbidding Lolita to take part in after-school activities or to associate with boys; most of the townspeople, however, see this as the action of a loving and concerned, while old-fashioned, parent.
Lolita begs to be allowed to take part in the school play; Humbert reluctantly grants his permission in exchange for more sexual favors. The play is written by Clare Quilty. He is said to have attended a rehearsal and been impressed by Lolita's acting. Just before opening night, Lolita and Humbert have a ferocious argument; Lolita runs away while Humbert assures the neighbors everything is fine. He searches frantically until he finds her exiting a phone booth. She is in a bright, pleasant mood, saying she tried to reach him at home and that a "great decision has been made." They go to buy drinks and Lolita tells Humbert she doesn't care about the play, rather, wants to leave town and resume their travels.
As Lolita and Humbert drive westward again, Humbert gets the feeling that their car is being tailed and he becomes increasingly paranoid, suspecting that Lolita is conspiring with others in order to escape. She falls ill and must convalesce in a hospital; Humbert stays in a nearby motel, without Lolita for the first time in years. One night, Lolita disappears from the hospital; the staff tell Humbert that Lolita's "uncle" checked her out. Humbert embarks upon a frantic search to find Lolita and her abductor, but eventually he gives up. During this time, Humbert has a two year relationship (ending in 1952) with an adult named Rita, who he describes as a "kind, good sport." She "solemnly approve[s]" of his search for Lolita. Rita figuratively dies when Humbert receives a letter from Lolita, now 17, who tells him that she is married, pregnant and in desperate need of money. Humbert goes to see Lolita, giving her money in exchange for the name of the man who abducted her. She reveals the truth: Clare Quilty, an acquaintance of Charlotte's, the writer of the school play, and the man Lolita claims to have loved, checked her out of the hospital after following them throughout their travels and attempted to make her star in one of his pornographic films; when she refused, he threw her out. She worked odd jobs before meeting and marrying her husband, who knows nothing about her past. Humbert asks Lolita to leave her husband, Dick, and live with him, to which she refuses. He gives her a large sum of money anyway, which secures her future. As he leaves she smiles and shouts goodbye in a "sweet, American" way.
Humbert finds Quilty at his mansion; he intends to kill him, but first wants him to understand why he must die; he took advantage of a sinner (Humbert), he took advantage of a disadvantage. Eventually, Humbert shoots him several times (throughout which Quilty is bargaining for his life in a witty, though bizarre, manner). Once Quilty has died, Humbert exits the house. Shortly after, he is arrested for driving on the wrong side of the road and swerving. The narrative closes with Humbert's final words to Lolita in which he wishes her well, and reveals the novel in its metafiction to be the memoirs of his life, only to be published after he and Lolita have both died.
According to the novel's fictional "Foreword", Humbert dies of coronary thrombosis upon finishing his manuscript. Lolita dies giving birth to a stillborn girl on Christmas Day, 1952.

[edit]Erotic motifs and controversy

Lolita is frequently described as an "erotic novel", not only by some critics but even in Facts on File: Companion to the American Short Story.[1] The Great Soviet Encyclopedia called Lolita "an experiment in combining an erotic novel with an instructive novel of manners," [2] The same description of the novel is found in Desmond Morris' reference work The Book of Ages.[3] A survey of books for Women's Studies courses describes it as a "tongue-in-cheek erotic novel".[4] Books focused on the history of erotic literature such as Michael Perkins' The Secret Record: Modern Erotic Literature also so classify Lolita.[5]
More cautious classifications have included a "novel with erotic motifs"[6] or one of "a number of works of classical erotic literature and art, and to novels that contain elements of eroticism, like ...Ulysses and Lady Chatterley's Lover"[7]
However, this classification has been disputed. Malcolm Bradbury writes "at first famous as an erotic novel, Lolita soon won its way as a literary one—a late modernist distillation of the whole crucial mythology."[8] Samuel Schuman says that Nabokov "is a surrealist, linked to Gogol, Dostoevsky, and Kafka. Lolita is characterized by irony and sarcasm. It is not an erotic novel" [9]
Lance Olsen writes "The first 13 chapters of the text, culminating with the oft-cited scene of Lo unwittingly stretching her legs across Humbert’s excited lap [...] are the only chapters suggestive of the erotic."[10] Nabokov himself observes in the novel's afterword that a few readers were "misled. [by the opening of the book]...into assuming this was going to be a lewd book...[expecting] the rising succession of erotic scenes; when these stopped, the readers stopped, too, and felt bored."[11]

[edit]Style and interpretation

The novel is a tragicomedy narrated by Humbert, who riddles the narrative with word play and his wry observations of American culture. His humor provides an effective counterpoint to the pathosof the tragic plot. The novel's flamboyant style is characterized by double entendres, multilingual punsanagrams, and coinages such as nymphet, a word that has since had a life of its own and can be found in most dictionaries, and the lesser used "faunlet." One of the novel's characters, "Vivian Darkbloom," is an anagram of the author's name.
Several times, the narrator begs the reader to understand that he is not proud of his rape of Lolita, but is filled with remorse. At one point he listens to the sounds of children playing outdoors, and is stricken with guilt at the realization that he robbed Lolita of her childhood. When he is reunited with the adult Lolita, he realizes that he still loves her even if she no longer is the nymphet of his dreams.
Some critics have accepted Humbert's version of events at face value. In 1959, novelist Robertson Davies excused the narrator entirely, writing that the theme of Lolita is "not the corruption of an innocent child by a cunning adult, but the exploitation of a weak adult by a corrupt child. This is no pretty theme, but it is one with which social workers, magistrates and psychiatrists are familiar."[12]
Most writers, however, have given less credit to Humbert and more to Nabokov's powers as an ironist. For Richard Rorty, in his interpretation of Lolita in Contingency, Irony, and Solidarity, Humbert is a "monster of incuriosity." Nabokov himself described Humbert as "a vain and cruel wretch" and "a hateful person."[13]
In his essay on Stalinism "Koba the Dread," Martin Amis proposes that Lolita is an elaborate metaphor for the totalitarianism that destroyed the Russia of Nabokov's childhood (though Nabokov states in his afterword that he "[detests] symbols and allegories"). Amis interprets it as a story of tyranny told from the point of view of the tyrant. "Nabokov, in all his fiction, writes with incomparable penetration about delusion and coercion, about cruelty and lies," he says. "Even Lolita, especially Lolita, is a study in tyranny."
Critics have further noted that the novel gives very little information about what Lolita is personally like, that in effect she has been silenced. Nomi Tamir-Ghez writes "Not only is Lolita's voice silenced, her point of view, the way she sees the situation and feels about it, is rarely mentioned and can be only surmised by the reader...since it is Humbert who tells the story...throughout most of the novel, the reader is absorbed in Humbert's feelings".[14] Similarly Mica Howe and Sarah Appleton Aguiar write that the novel silences and objectifies Lolita.[15] Christine Clegg notes that this is a recurring theme in criticism of the novel in the 1990s.[16] Actor Brian Cox who played Humbert in a 2009 one-man monologue show based on the novel stated that the novel is "not about Lolita as a flesh and blood entity. It’s Lolita as a memory" and concluded that a stage monologue would be truer to the book than any film could possibly be.[17] Elizabeth Janeway writing in The New York Review of Books holds "Humbert is every man who is driven by desire, wanting his Lolita so badly that it never occurs to him to consider her as a human being, or as anything but a dream-figment made flesh".[18]
Clegg sees the novel's non-disclosure of Lolita's feelings as directly linked to the fact that her real name is Dolores Haze and (in the novel but not the film) only Humbert refers to her as Lolita.[19]Humbert also states he has effectively "solipsized" Lolita early in the novel.[20] Eric Lemay of Northwestern University writes
The human child, the one noticed by non-nymphomaniacs, answers to other names, "Lo," "Lola," "Dolly," and, least alluring of all, "Dolores." "But in my arms," asserts Humbert, "she was always Lolita." And in his arms or out, "Lolita" was always the creation of Humbert's craven self.... The Siren-like Humbert sings a song of himself, to himself, and titles that self and that song "Lolita." ... To transform Dolores into Lolita, to seal this sad adolescent within his musky self, Humbert must deny her her humanity.[21]
In 2003 Iranian expatriate Azar Nafisi published the memoir Reading Lolita in Tehran about a covert women's reading group. In an NPR interview Nafasi contrasts the sorrowful and seductive sides of Dolores/Lolita's character. She notes "Because her name is not Lolita, her real name is Dolores which as you know in Latin means dolour, so her real name is associated with sorrow and with anguish and with innocence, while Lolita becomes a sort of light-headed, seductive, and airy name. The Lolita of our novel is both of these at the same time and in our culture here today we only associate it with one aspect of that little girl and the crassest interpretation of her." Following Nafasi's comments, the NPR interviewer, Madeleine Brand, lists as embodiments of the latter side of Lolita, "the Long Island Lolita, Britney Spears, the Olsen twins, and Sue Lyons in Stanley Kubrick's Lolita"[22]
For Nafisi, the essence of the novel is Humbert's solipsism and his erasure of Lolita's independent identity. She writes: "Lolita was given to us as Humbert's creature [...] To reinvent her, Humbert must take from Lolita her own real history and replace it with his own [...] Yet she does have a past. Despite Humbert's attempts to orphan Lolita by robbing her of her history, that past is still given to us in glimpses."[23]
One of the novel's early champions, Lionel Trilling, warned in 1958 of the moral difficulty in interpreting a book with so eloquent and so self-deceived a narrator: "we find ourselves the more shocked when we realize that, in the course of reading the novel, we have come virtually to condone the violation it presents [...] we have been seduced into conniving in the violation, because we have permitted our fantasies to accept what we know to be revolting."[24]

[edit]Publication and reception

Nabokov finished Lolita on 6 December 1953, five years after starting it.[25] because of its subject matter, Nabokov intended to publish it pseudonymously (although the anagrammatic character Vivian Darkbloom would tip off the alert reader).[26] The manuscript was turned down, with more or less regret, by VikingSimon & SchusterNew DirectionsFarrar, Straus, and Doubleday.[27]After these refusals and warnings, he finally resorted to publication in France. Via his translator Doussia Ergaz, it reached Maurice Girodias of Olympia Press, "three quarters of [whose] list was pornographic trash".[28] Underinformed about Olympia, overlooking hints of Girodias's approval of the conduct of a protagonist Girodias presumed was based on the author, and despite warnings from Morris Bishop, his friend at Cornell, Nabokov signed a contract with Olympia Press for publication of the book, to come out under his own name.[29]
Lolita was published in September 1955, as a pair of green paperbacks "swarming with typographical errors".[30] Although the first printing of 5,000 copies sold out,[citation needed] there were no substantial reviews. Eventually, at the very end of 1955, Graham Greene, in the (London) Sunday Times, called it one of the three best books of 1955.[31] This statement provoked a response from the (London) Sunday Express, whose editor John Gordon called it "the filthiest book I have ever read" and "sheer unrestrained pornography."[32] British Customs officers were then instructed by a panicked Home Office to seize all copies entering the United Kingdom.[citation needed] In December 1956, France followed suit, and the Minister of the Interior banned Lolita[33] (the ban lasted for two years). Its eventual British publication by Weidenfeld & Nicolson caused a scandal that contributed to the end of the political career of one of the publishers, Nigel Nicolson.[34]
The novel then appeared in Danish and Dutch translations (two editions of a Swedish translation were withdrawn at the author's request).[35][36]
Despite initial trepidation, there was no official response in the U.S., and the first American edition was issued by G.P. Putnam's Sons in August, 1958. The book was into a third printing within days and became the first since Gone with the Wind to sell 100,000 copies in its first three weeks.[37]
The novel continues to generate controversy today as modern society has become increasingly aware of the lasting damage created by child sexual abuse. In 2008, an entire book was published on the best ways to teach the novel in a college classroom given that "its particular mix of narrative strategies, ornate allusive prose, and troublesome subject matter complicates its presentation to students."[38] In this book one author urges teachers to note that Lolita's suffering is noted in the book even if the main focus is on Humbert. Many critics describe Humbert as a rapist, notablyAzar Nafisi in her bestselling Reading Lolita in Tehran,[39] though in a survey of critics David Larmour notes that other interpreters of the novel have been reluctant to use that term.[40] Near the end of the novel, Humbert accuses himself of rape – however, after noting this Nabokov biographer Brian Boyd tries to let Humbert off the hook on the grounds that Dolores was not a virgin and seduced Humbert in the morning of their hotel stay although sex had been suggested by Humbert earlier.[41] This perspective is vigorously disputed by Peter Rabinowitz in his essay "Lolita: Solipsized or Sodomized?".[42]
Today, Lolita is considered by many to be one of the finest novels written in the 20th century. In 1998, it came fourth in a list by the Modern Library of the greatest English-language novels of the 20th century.[43]

[edit]Sources and links

[edit]Links in Nabokov's work

In 1939 Nabokov wrote a novella, Volshebnik (Волшебник), that was published only posthumously in 1986 in English translation as The Enchanter. It bears many similarities to Lolita, but also has significant differences: It takes place in Central Europe, and the protagonist is unable to consummate his passion with his stepdaughter, leading to his suicide. The theme of ephebophilia was already touched on by Nabokov in his short story "A Nursery Tale", written in 1926. Also, in the 1932 Laughter in the Dark, Margot Peters is 16 and already had an affair when middle-aged Albinus becomes attracted to her.
In chapter three of the novel The Gift (written in Russian in 1935–1937) the similar gist of Lolita's first chapter is outlined to the protagonist, Fyodor Cherdyntsev, by his obnoxious landlord Shchyogolev as an idea of a novel he would write "if I only had the time": A man marries a widow only to gain access to her young daughter, who resists all his passes. Shchyogolev says it happened "in reality" to a friend of his; it is made clear to the reader that it concerns himself and his stepdaughter Zina (15 at the time of marriage) who becomes the love of Fyodor's life and his child bride.
In April 1947, Nabokov wrote to Edmund Wilson: "I am writing ... a short novel about a man who liked little girls—and it's going to be called The Kingdom by the Sea...."[44] The work expanded intoLolita during the next eight years. Nabokov used the title A Kingdom by the Sea in his 1974 pseudo-autobiographical novel Look at the Harlequins! for a Lolita-like book written by the narrator who, in addition, travels with his teenage daughter Bel from motel to motel after the death of her mother; later, his fourth wife is Bel's look-alike and shares her birthday.
In Nabokov's 1962 novel Pale Fire, the titular poem by fictional John Shade mentions Hurricane Lolita coming up the American east coast in 1958, and narrator Charles Kinbote (in the commentary later in the book) notes it, questioning why anyone would have chosen an obscure Spanish nickname for a hurricane. There were no hurricanes named Lolita that year, but that is the year thatLolita the novel was published in North America.
The unfinished novel The Original of Laura, published posthumously, features the character Hubert H. Hubert, an older man preying upon then-child protagonist, Flora. In contrast to in Lolita, his advances are unsuccessful.

[edit]Literary pastiches, allusions and prototypes

The novel abounds in allusions to classical and modern literature. Virtually all of them have been noted in The Annotated Lolita edited and annotated by Alfred Appel, Jr.. Many are references to Humbert's own favorite poet, Edgar Allan Poe.
Humbert Humbert's first love, Annabel Leigh, is named after the "maiden" in the poem "Annabel Lee" by Poe; this poem is alluded to many times in the novel, and its lines are borrowed to describe Humbert's love. A passage in chapter 11 reuses verbatim Poe's phrase the side of my darling—my darling—my life and my bride.[45] In the opening of the novel, the phrase Ladies and gentlemen of the jury, exhibit number one is what the seraphs, the misinformed, simple, noble-winged seraphs, envied, is a pastiche of two passages of the poem, the winged seraphs of heaven (line 11), and The angels, not half so happy in heaven, went envying her and me (lines 21–2).[46] Nabokov originally intended Lolita to be called The Kingdom by the Sea,[47] drawing on the rhyme with Annabel Lee that was used in the first verse of Poe's work. A variant of this line is reprised in the opening of chapter one, which reads ...had I not loved, one summer, an initial girl-child. In a princedom by the sea.[46]
Humbert Humbert's double name recalls Poe's "William Wilson", a tale in which the main character is haunted by his doppelgänger, paralleling to the presence of Humbert's own doppelgänger, Clare Quilty. Humbert is not, however, his real name, but a chosen pseudonym.
Chapter 27 contains a parody of Joyce's stream of consciousness.[48]
Humbert Humbert's field of expertise is French literature (one of his jobs is writing a series of educational works that compare French writers to English writers), and as such there are several references to French literature, including the authors Gustave FlaubertMarcel ProustFrançois RabelaisCharles BaudelaireProsper MériméeRemy BelleauHonoré de Balzac, and Pierre de Ronsard.
Vladimir Nabokov was fond of Lewis Carroll and had translated Alice in Wonderland into Russian. He even called Carroll the "first Humbert Humbert".[49] Lolita contains a few brief allusions in the text to the Alice books, though overall Nabokov avoided direct allusions to Carroll. In her book, Tramp: The Life of Charlie Chaplin, Joyce Milton claims that a major inspiration for the novel wasCharlie Chaplin's relationship with his second wife, Lita Grey, whose real name was Lillita and is often misstated as Lolita. Graham Vickers in his book Chasing Lolita: How Popular Culture Corrupted Nabokov's Little Girl All Over Again argues that the two major real-world predecessors of Humbert are Lewis Carroll and Charlie Chaplin. Although Appel's comprehensive Annotated Lolita contains no references to Charlie Chaplin, others have picked up several oblique references to Chaplin's life in Nabokov's book. Bill Delaney notes that at the end Lolita and her husband move to the Alaskan town of Grey Star while Chaplin's The Gold Rush, set in Alaska, was originally set to star Lita Grey. Lolita's first sexual encounter was with a boy named Charlie Holmes, whom Humbert describes as "the silent...but indefatigable Charlie." Chaplin had an artist paint Lita Grey in imitation of Joshua Reynolds's painting The Age of Innocence. When Humbert visits Lolita in a class at her school, he notes a print of the same painting in the classroom. Delaney's article notes many other parallels as well.[50]
The foreword refers to "the monumental decision rendered December 6, 1933 by Hon. John M. Woolsey in regard to another, considerably more outspoken book"—that is, the decision in the caseUnited States v. One Book Called Ulysses, in which Woolsey ruled that James Joyce's Ulysses was not obscene and could be sold in the United States.
In chapter 29 of Part II, Humbert comments that Lolita looks "like Botticelli's russet Venus—the same soft nose, the same blurred beauty", referencing Sandro Botticelli's depiction of Venus in, perhaps, The Birth of Venus or Venus and Mars.
In chapter 35 of Part II, Humbert's "death sentence" on Quilty parodies the rhythm and use of anaphora in T. S. Eliot's poem Ash Wednesday.
Many other references to classical and Romantic literature abound, including references to Lord Byron's Childe Harold's Pilgrimage and to the poetry of Laurence Sterne.

[edit]Other possible real-life prototypes

In addition to the possible prototypes of Lewis Carroll and Charlie Chaplin mentioned above in Allusions, Alexander Dolinin suggests [51] that the prototype of Lolita was 11-year-old Florence Horner, kidnapped in 1948 by 50-year-old mechanic Frank La Salle, who had caught her stealing a five-cent notebook. La Salle traveled with her over various states for 21 months and is believed to have raped her. He claimed that he was an FBI agent and threatened to "turn her in" for the theft and to send her to "a place for girls like you." The Horner case was not widely reported, but Dolinin notes various similarities in events and descriptions.
While Nabokov had already used the same basic idea—that of a child molester and his victim booking into a hotel as father and daughter—in his then-unpublished 1939 work Volshebnik(Волшебник), the Horner case is mentioned explicitly in Chapter 33 of Part II:
Had I done to Dolly, perhaps, what Frank Lasalle, a fifty-year-old mechanic, had done to eleven-year-old Sally Horner in 1948?

[edit]Heinz von Lichberg's "Lolita"

German academic Michael Maar's book The Two Lolitas[52] describes his recent discovery of a 1916 German short story titled "Lolita" about a middle-aged man travelling abroad who takes a room as a lodger and instantly becomes obsessed with the preteen girl (also named Lolita) who lives in the same house. Maar has speculated that Nabokov may have had cryptomnesia (a "hidden memory" of the story that Nabokov was unaware of) while he was composing Lolita during the 1950s. Maar says that until 1937 Nabokov lived in the same section of Berlin as the author, Heinz von Eschwege (pen name: Heinz von Lichberg), and was most likely familiar with his work, which was widely available in Germany during Nabokov's time there.[53][54] The Philadelphia Inquirer, in the article "Lolita at 50: Did Nabokov take literary liberties?" says that, according to Maar, accusations of plagiarism should not apply and quotes him as saying: "Literature has always been a huge crucible in which familiar themes are continually recast... Nothing of what we admire in Lolita is already to be found in the tale; the former is in no way deducible from the latter." See alsoJonathan Lethem in Harper's Magazine on this story.[55]

[edit]Nabokov on Lolita


In 1956 Nabokov wrote an afterword to Lolita ("On a Book Entitled Lolita"), that first appeared in the first U.S. edition and has appeared thereafter.[56]
One of the first things Nabokov makes a point of saying is that, despite John Ray Jr.'s claim in the Foreword, there is no moral to the story.[57]
Nabokov adds that "the initial shiver of inspiration" for Lolita "was somehow prompted by a newspaper story about an ape in the Jardin des Plantes who, after months of coaxing by a scientist, produced the first drawing ever charcoaled by an animal: this sketch showed the bars of the poor creature's cage".[58] Neither the article nor the drawing has been recovered.
In response to an American critic who characterized Lolita as the record of Nabokov's "love affair with the romantic novel", Nabokov writes that "the substitution of 'English language' for 'romantic novel' would make this elegant formula more correct".[59]
Nabokov concludes the afterword with a reference to his beloved first language, which he abandoned as a writer once he moved to the United States in 1940: "My private tragedy, which cannot, and indeed should not, be anybody's concern, is that I had to abandon my natural idiom, my untrammeled, rich, and infinitely docile Russian language for a second-rate brand of English".[60]


Nabokov rated the book highly. In an interview for BBC Television in 1962, he said:
Lolita is a special favorite of mine. It was my most difficult book—the book that treated of a theme which was so distant, so remote, from my own emotional life that it gave me a special pleasure to use my combinational talent to make it real.[61]
Over a year later, in an interview for Playboy, he said:
I shall never regret Lolita. She was like the composition of a beautiful puzzle—its composition and its solution at the same time, since one is a mirror view of the other, depending on the way you look. Of course she completely eclipsed my other works—at least those I wrote in English: The Real Life of Sebastian Knight, Bend Sinister, my short stories, my book of recollections; but I cannot grudge her this. There is a queer, tender charm about that mythical nymphet.[62]
In the same year, in an interview with Life, Nabokov was asked which of his writings had most pleased him. He answered:
I would say that of all my books Lolita has left me with the most pleasurable afterglow—perhaps because it is the purest of all, the most abstract and carefully contrived. I am probably responsible for the odd fact that people don't seem to name their daughters Lolita any more. I have heard of young female poodles being given that name since 1956, but of no human beings.[63]