eric's Reviews > Under the Volcano

Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry
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Jan 15, 09

Read in January, 2009

It's a little tough to rate this one. There are parts that I'd give five stars, and parts that didn't do much for me. But most of the uninspiring parts times are pretty short. Aside from the first fifty pages, which I had to really struggle through. I've started this book a couple times over the past few years and, before now, haven't made it past page 20 or so. Travel-related necessity helped push me farther this time, and I'm glad. On the whole, I really liked this book. Once you're past the initial 50 pages (which I really should re-read now), there are a few short parts that many people will probably find intolerably bizarre. But the vast majority is entirely comprehensible and is written is a very interesting fashion. On very rare occasions I found it tried a little too hard to be poetic, but on the whole it was great. Enough about the writing. The story takes place over a single, long day. The principal character is a decidedly drunk forty-something former diplomat in a Mexican mountain town in the early 1950s or thereabouts. Maybe I'm misremembering times. But much of the text explores the history of the three main characters, as remembered histories. It's all pretty fascinating. And at the end there are plenty of questions left unresolved, but that have subtly suggested resolutions. I'm not making myself clear, but all of this is good in my opinion. On the whole, it's a crushingly depressing read -- near the the top of my list of most depressing books ever. An unrepresentative but memorable example of the general mood (paraphrased): 'What is man but a bit of soul holding up a corpse?' Much of the depressing nature comes for the main character's inability to control his drinking despite much loving encouragement. Also, the couple's inability to communicate with one another effectively is a damn shame. All things told, this was pretty great book. Previously I would have given it five stars, but I'm trying to be a little more discerning. Maybe too discerning.
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