Books Like Lolita
Vladimir Nabokov wrote Lolita in 1995 and the novel quickly grabbed the attention of readers due to its controversial subject matter. The story is written from the perspective of an unreliable author using the pseudonym of Humbert Humbert. Humbert is a middle-aged professor who becomes obsessed with a young girl named Dolores Haze. His obsession with her becomes so deep that Humbert becomes her stepfather in order to remain close to her. However, the novel also explores what happens to Humbert and Dolores, who he refers to as Lolita, after the two become involved. There are not a lot of authors who can hold a candle to the writing style of Nabokov, but here are a few books like Lolita that share similar themes.
Ada, or Ador: A Family Chronicle
by Vladimir Nabokov
About the only author who truly has the same unique style as Vladimir Nabokov is unsurprisingly Nabokov, so readers who enjoyed Lolita and want to follow it with something similar should check out Ada, or Ador: A Family Chronicle. This novel also features a controversial theme as it deals with two siblings who begin a sexual affair when they are still in their early teens. Just like Lolita was written in the form of a memoir by the protagonist, Ada was written to resemble a manuscript that was written by the two lead characters. Another similarity that it has with Lolita is that it is also often misunderstood by readers who believe it to be nothing more than an incestuous love story, when the story actually has many more facets.
by Marguerite Duras
The Lover by Marguerite Duras shares similar themes with Lolita and it also went on to become an international best-seller despite the controversial topics it features. The story takes place during the era of French colonial Vietnam and the protagonist is a poor 15-year old girl who becomes involved in an affair with a wealthy 27-year old man. However, unlike Lolita, The Lover is actually a semi-autobiographical novel as the author incorporated some elements of her own life in the story.
Notes on a Scandal
by Zoe Heller
Notes on a Scandal by Zoe Heller reverses the theme of Lolita, so instead of an older man having an affair with a young girl, it is about a female teacher who has an affair with her male underage pupil. Batsheba Hart is the art teacher who initiates the affair with the 15-year old Steven Connolly, but what makes this book unique is that it isn't written from either of their perspectives. Instead, it is Barbara, the history teacher who befriends Batsheba who tells the story. What makes things even more interesting is that Barbara is unmarried and extremely lonely, which makes her obsessive about friendship. This means that she is extremely jealous about the affair, which results in her notes on the scandal being quite biased and unreliable.
by Pia Pera
Lo's Diary by Pia Pera is very much a love it or hate it kind of novel, but one that is definitely worth reading if you are a fan of Lolita. Although it wasn't written by Nabokov, Lo's Diary is a retelling of Lolita, but this time from the perspective of Lolita herself and not that of her seducer, Humbert. The novel promises to tell everything that Humbert never told, saw or imagined, which obviously caused quite a bit of legal issues with Nabokov's estate. If you have ever wondered with the story of Lolita would have been like if it was written from a female point of view, then Lo's Diary delivers just that. Although this book has had scathing reviews from critics, there are many readers who delight in the fact that Lolita's view of Humbert matches their own.
Putney: A Novel
by Sofka Zinovieff
Just like Lolita, Putney: A Novel also deals with the relationship between an older man and a young girl, but in this book the story is told from the perspective of the perpetrator, the victim, as well as a witness. The story also spans multiple decades, from the seventies where the teenage girl sees her romance with a powerful older man as intoxicating to the present day, where she is struggling to find stability and care for her adolescent daughter. Putney: A Novel is also similar to Lolita because it scratches deeper than just the surface for a topic that is still very controversial.
Tampa: A Novel
by Alissa Nutting
There is no denying that while Tampa: A Novel shares similar themes to Lolita, it is also a much darker and more disturbing book. Whereas readers might still feel sympathy for Humbert and his obsession with Lolita, it is not so easy with this novel. The protagonist of Tampa: A Novel is Celeste Price, who is a 26-year old teacher with no qualms about abusing her authority to seduce a 14-year old student. Because the book is written from the perspective of a character who is a complete sociopath, it goes without saying that the narrator is unreliable, but it also makes the story disturbingly compelling.
by Junichiro Tanizaki
For a book based around the same themes as Lolita, but with some unexpected twists, Naomi by Junichiro Tanizaki comes highly recommended. It is about a 28-year old man named Joji, who becomes infatuated with a teenage girl named Naomi who works as a waitress at a cafe. The novel is set in 1920s Tokyo and Joji is obsessed with Western culture, which also draws him to the somewhat Western features of Naomi. Just like Humbert, Joji seeks to manipulate Naomi by first adopting and then marrying her, but this plan quickly backfires on him when he realizes that she has much more power over him than he realized.