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A Visit from Voltaire
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A Visit from Voltaire

3.42  ·  Rating details ·  98 Ratings  ·  17 Reviews
When an American mother-of-three finds herself overwhelmed in her new home in Switzerland, a visitor pops up offering to cure her son's asthma, her husband's growing indifference, and her own resentment of life. Is he the village nutter or—as he claims to be—the greatest mind of the eighteenth century? This talkative character wearing kneebreeches and a wig is the last str ...more
Paperback, 360 pages
Published June 1st 2004 by Halban Publishers (first published 2004)
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Dec 30, 2009 rated it really liked it
Dinah Lee Küng brings Voltaire to life in her uproariously delightful novel, A Visit From Voltaire. It should not go without saying; this novel was long listed for the Orange Prize in Fiction in 2004, a nomination well deserved. The tale begins with an exhausted mother, truly is there another kind, yet in all seriousness she, her Swiss husband Peter and their three children have relocated from Manhattan to the small Swiss town of St-Cergue where absolutely nothing has gone as planned. The contra ...more
Nov 06, 2015 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I finished it because I kept waiting for it to make sense. Why did the ghost of Voltaire suddenly appear to this modern woman? Was there a purpose? When would the big reveal come? Well, I never did quite understand. I also couldn't understand how he materialized with his full wardrobe and all of his material possessions. Or how did he travel with his modern friend on a modern airplane from Switzerland to London? And how exactly did his ghostly valise go right along with her checked baggage on th ...more
Alex Brett
Aug 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Delightful. A true tribute to joie de vivre, and will please any cosmopolitan soul trying to find solace from the boredom of provincial life. The figure of Voltaire is presented not as a dry text-book figure but is resurrected as the witty and unstoppable man he should be remembered as. As the narrator sifts through her own experiences, ranging from the intriguing to the alarmingly incongruous, Voltaire offers the best advice one can have ultimately: to hack and slash away at the pomposity of in ...more
Liz Mutkins
Sep 21, 2012 rated it really liked it
A really enjoyable book with the quirky ghost of Voltaire providing much needed company for an American journalist ill at ease in her new home in rural Switzerland. Funny and touching, also a great way to learn a lot about a wonderful figure from history.
Jan 21, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Von New York in ein kleines Schweizer Dörfchen zu ziehen, ist auch für Dinah ein riesiger Schritt. Sie, die zwanzig Jahre in Hongkong als Journalistin gelebt hat, Skandale aufdeckte und sich für die Menschenrechte eingesetzt hat, ist jetzt auch noch vom Großstadtleben mit all ihren Bekannten abgeschnitten. Die Umbauten des Hauses verschlingen das ganze Geld, die Handwerker machen was sie wollen und als zwei ihrer Kinder erkranken, ist sie eigentlich vom Landleben kuriert. Da erscheint am Bett ih ...more
Dec 05, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: fans of history, French literature, light literary reading
Here's a thoughtful review from book blogger Tariq Kataria. He sums up this book very well:
"A most admirable way of introducing historical characters to todays reader in an educational , entertaining , easily accessible is in the form an anecdotal quasi-fictional narrative.

It has been done to great effect in theatre plays like Alan Bennetts "The Habit of Art" and Novels from Tolstoy to Solzhenitsyn to Kundera which explore meetings of real life characters
Nov 18, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Wonderful, but a book that's hard to categorize, as it's part memoir in the voice of the great Voltaire himself, and part memoir by the narrator who has to put up with his ghost, part fiction and part rigorous historical research. It all makes for an original and suprisingly comical two-hander set against the landscape of a small Swiss village.

I can understand why the Orange Prize for Fiction committee singled it out, and why its readership grows with time. Although the author is American, she’s
Apr 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A delightful romp of a book, and easily the most superbly written (and readable!) historical figure I've seen in a long time. Kung's Voltaire brims with the charm, intellect, and vivacity that makes him such a joy to get to know in history. The narrative was unpredictable, the thoughts were fresh and fascinating, and the anecdotes were intriguing. As someone very familiar with the era, it was clear that Kung did her homework.

I'd gladly recommend this to anyone who loves history, and even those
Sep 26, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this up in the library and found it very entertaining. Living as an American expat in England I could relate to many of her situations in the book (which I'm sure are based on many of her actual experiences) and found myself wishing for my own intellectual ghost to keep me company and give such guidance! The only criticism really is that I did find it a bit slow in the middle which I have also read in a previous review, but it is a light read overall, and that did not hinder my enjoymen ...more
Jane Seaford
Feb 05, 2013 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I took this book from the library as I once lived in Ferney-Voltaire (where Voltaire once lived) and also knew the area where it was set. And because it was long listed for the Orange prize. It started well... but I was soon bored. And wondered what the point of most of it was. The author can write. But that's the only positive thing I can say about it. It's as if she'd had the idea and then had to do a lot of padding in order to tell a story around it. Such a disapointment.
Oct 15, 2010 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed reading this, I thought Voltaire was excellently portrayed and it was very funny.
Dec 04, 2012 added it
love it
Blah. Didn't engage me. Read like a combo of a rambling memoir and a research paper on Voltaire. Wasn't seamless at all.
Feb 07, 2012 added it
Shelves: partially-read
Couldn't get into it. Don't know enough about Voltaire...
Feb 13, 2011 rated it liked it
We read this for a book club I am in as it was written by an expat living in Switzerland...
Nov 11, 2012 rated it did not like it
Shelves: fiction
I got half-way in this novel and just ran out of steam. I was bored with the family and not learning anything about Voltaire or France. For me, the narrator was just too whiny.
Jul 29, 2011 marked it as to-read
04 long list-orange prize
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Josh Matthews
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Oct 31, 2012
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Dec 05, 2011
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Küng worked for twenty years as a reporter in Asia for The Economist, BusinessWeek, the International Herald Tribune and the Washington Post. The author of six novels and a number of plays, Küng lives in Switzerland.
More about Dinah Lee Küng