Under the Volcano

Lowry, Malcolm. Under the Volcano. Read by John Lee. Blackstone Audio, Inc., 2009.

Reason read: November 2nd is traditionally known as Day of the Dead or All Souls Day in Mexico. For the most part, Under the Volcano takes place in one day on November 2nd, 1939. Confessional: Then She Found Me ended a week early so I started listening to Under the Volcano on October 23rd 2015.

The very first thing you notice about Under the Volcano is the luxurious writing. Lowry’s use of language is like sinking in a deep bed of velvet. You fall in and keep falling until you can’t extract yourself from the words very easily. Listening to this an audio made it a little more difficult because of the various languages spoken and the switching of points of views. I can understand written Spanish much better than the spoken language.
The very first chapter sets the stage for the following eleven chapters. It is November 2nd 1940 in Quauhnahuac, Mexico and two men are reminiscing about the British Consul, Geoffrey Firmin. Chapter two takes us back exactly one year and we follow Firmin’s activities for one short day. Be prepared for a pathetic man’s sad Day in the Life. His ex-wife has just returned to Mexico from an extended stay in America¬† in an effort to reconcile with Firmin but ends up having a better time with his half brother. All the while the Consul is drinking, drinking, drinking. It is tragic how he argues with himself about that one last drink. There are mysterious dogs, runaway horses, bullfighting, and of course, the ever present volcanoes. Warning, but not a real spoiler alert: this doesn’t end well for anyone.

Quotes I liked somewhere within the pages of Under the Volcano: “Genius will look after itself”. True. And, “Vandals in sandals looking at murals”.

Author fact: Under the Volcano seems very autobiographical in nature. Lowry was an alcoholic, lived in Mexico for a time and went through a divorce, all like his main character, Geoffrey.

Book trivia: Under the Volcano was made into a movie and was Lowry’s last novel before he died.

BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “Postcards From Mexico” (p 186). Incidentally, it’s the last book of the chapter and to describe it Pearl calls it “uber viscerally painful” (p 186).



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