El's Reviews > The Volcano Lover: A Romance

The Volcano Lover by Susan Sontag
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bookshelves: 20th-centurylit-late

The dramatic love triangle between Sir William Hamilton, his wife Emma, and her lover, Lord Nelson, of the late 18th-century Naples is the basis of Sontag's historical "romance". The Cavaliere is an obsessive collector and fascinated with Mount Vesuvius which becomes symbolic of each characters' emotions at one point or another. When his beloved Catherine dies he falls in love with his nephew's lover, Emma, who ultimately finds true love not in the Cavaliere, but in "the hero", Lord Nelson. The volcano demonstrates the malcontent of the characters in their endless search for satisfaction.

I have not read any other fiction by Sontag, but found the writing style she implemented in this book different than what I had expected after the one or two essays I have read by her. The lack of quotation marks in dialogue is something I am not particularly a fan of (if James Joyce couldn't win me over, I'm not likely to lap it up by someone else), but I managed to make it through. The connection between the volcano and the characters and the mirror images of nature and society was fascinating to me and managed to keep me enthralled.

In typical fashion I wound up being more interested in the shadowy sideline characters, such as the fortune teller, Efrosina. While I wanted to know more about her, her time in the story was short. Character development left something to be desired; while I can understand why Joyce made some of the ridiculous choices he had made (whether I agree with them or not), I can appreciate his efforts. Sontag's choices left me questioning more than I would have liked. Maybe I just need to read more of her fiction to get a better grasp on her work.
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Reading Progress

January 27, 2008 – Shelved
Started Reading
February 3, 2008 – Shelved as: 20th-centurylit-late
February 3, 2008 – Finished Reading

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