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The Volcano Lover by Susan Sontag
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The Volcano Lover (original 1992; edition 1992)

by Susan Sontag

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1,026158,260 (3.47)1 / 25
Member:mongoosenamedt
Title:The Volcano Lover
Authors:Susan Sontag
Info:Farrar Straus & Giroux (1992), Edition: 1st, Hardcover, 419 pages
Collections:Books Read in 2012
Rating:****1/2
Tags:None

Work details

The Volcano Lover by Susan Sontag (1992)

Recently added byVictoriaCoeln, barbaraaa, amyem58, private library, theozannes, TjeerdMoischkaElias, schibboleth46, turk70
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English (11)  Spanish (2)  Dutch (1)  Hebrew (1)  All languages (15)
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
Pretty good book, fairly well-written but with a tendency to be wordy. The story is disjointed, with the first part of the book about the Volcano- lover and his wife, and second part more focused on Lady Hamilton and Admiral Nelson and ends a little flat. ( )
  charlie68 | Aug 14, 2013 |
I didn't love it but it wasn't a waste of time. I liked the prose when it was deliberate, but sometimes it was ponderous. I liked all the bits about the Cavaliere's duties and collecting and obsessing about volcanos. I liked when the penny dropped about who these characters were, what their names were.

But it would have taken me much longer if I had not had enforcedly empty hours to pass.
  ljhliesl | May 21, 2013 |
Loved it! ( )
  velvetink | Mar 31, 2013 |
"overlaid this history is an erudite voice that admittedly sounds like Sontag in her non-fiction but fits in perfectly with the character of Cavaliere"
read more: http://likeiamfeasting.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/the-volcano-lover-susan-sontag.htm... ( )
  mongoosenamedt | Feb 5, 2013 |
I've never read anything by Susan Sontag and was curious, so I bought this book for a few dollars in a thrift store. I was pleasantly surprised. Going into it I expected something very intellectual and philosophical. To some extent I got the philosophical elements, but this book was mostly an homage to the romance novel and to the romantic life of an 18th century wealthy English intellectual. Sontag demonstrates in this book her power with words and an extreme attention to detail that paints beautiful portraits of life among kings and queens on the mediterranean.

The main character is a fellow referred to as the Caveliere, an English aristocrat serving in Naples as the British Ambassador. He is a man of discovery fascinated by the collection of objects. Sontag explores here and there what it means to be a collector, and what the act of collecting says about a person. In her book, the Caveliere is an outwardly cold man with an inner fire for art and science. He demonstrates this through his extensive collection of ancient roman vases and contemporary portraiture. But he also demonstrates this through his very active exploration of the nearby volcano, Vesuvius. He tests his will and the will of others by scaling the volcano multiple times, sometimes just after a volcanic event. He becomes known through Naples for his expertise in volcanoes and for his collection of volcanic specimens.

At least half way through the book, the story lacked a plot. Instead, what we have is a portrait of this Caveliere and the interesting life he leads. But he faces few challenges and there are few redeemable qualities about him. He was cold and unloving to his wife, and he had little for the reader to identify with. This made the book a difficult read initially. But then a plot line developed after the death of his wife and the introduction of a new charming woman. At least initially he thought little of her, then fell in love. She at least initially was not in love with him either since she was deeply in love with his nephew. But his nephew spurns her for a woman of wealth, and she is left to hang on to his uncle. They bond, and he begins to make her into a woman of class and style. She learns French and Italian; she learns to play music and to sing; she performs monologues for guests. She becomes in the end a real charmer and a very popular woman in Naples. You get an interesting sense of what it was like to be popular and rich in the 18th century, and what kinds of things were found entertaining at their parties.

But then war comes with the French Revolution and lots of troubles begin. The Caveliere is tragically forced to abandon his palazzo in Naples, along with a good share of his valuable art collection. Most of this is transferred to a ship for transport to England, but this ship sinks in a storm and he loses all of it. He and his wife join the King and Queen of Naples aboard a ship just off the coast while the French take the city. They expect the French to have troubles staying popular, and this is borne out. They lose their popularity and ultimately are forced out by popular will. The King remains popular with the people and is called back. But at this point, the Caveliere is forced to resign his post and return to England.

The book is a rich one filled initially with descriptions of art and the passions of an art collector. It transitions to a solid storyline of the French revolution and its impacts on Naples and relations between the English government and the government of Naples. The Caveliere remains a sad character until the end. His passion for collecting is a fascinating quality, but his personality is a dull one. It leaves the reader wondering who the protagonist in this story is after all.

But despite all of this, I give this book four stars because of the elegant and beautiful writing of Susan Sontag. This made the book a real pleasure to read. It is rich with detail and full of intimate understanding of what it is like to love art. Clearly Susan Sontag is the right person to give such detail. I look very much forward to discovering more of her beautiful writing in other books. ( )
  mrminjares | Jul 11, 2012 |
Showing 1-5 of 11 (next | show all)
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Epigraph
DORABELLA (aside): Nel petto un Vesuvio d'avere mi par.

       Cosi fan tutte,
Act II
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For David
beloved son, comrade
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It is the entrance to a flea market.
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Esta obra está duplicada
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0312420072, Paperback)

Set in 18th century Naples, based on the lives of Sir William Hamilton, his celebrated wife Emma, and Lord Nelson, and peopled with many of the great figures of the day, this unconventional, bestselling historical romance from the National Book Award-winning author of In America touches on themes of sex and revolution, the fate of nature, art and the collector's obsessions, and, above all, love.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 14:06:27 -0400)

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