The Volcano Lover: A Romance

The Volcano Lover: A Romance

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by Susan Sontag
     
 

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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 historial romance touches on themes of sex and revolution, the fate of nature, art and the collector's obsessions, and, above all, love.  See more details below

Overview

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 historial romance touches on themes of sex and revolution, the fate of nature, art and the collector's obsessions, and, above all, love.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Focusing on the famous love triangle between British envoy Sir William Hamilton, his wife Emma and her lover Lord Nelson, Sontag's intellectual historical romance, a 10-week PW bestseller in cloth, paints an unconventional portrait of 18th-century society. (Aug.)
Library Journal
The astringently intellectual Sontag here turns to lush historical romance based on the real-life triangle of Sir William Hamilton, his wife Emma, and Lord Nelson. The English ambassador to the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies in the late 1700s, the Cavaliere is an exacting collector of antiquities and a frequent visitor to Mount Vesuvius. When his devoted wife Catherine dies, he becomes enamored of his nephew's beautiful if vulgar mistress. Emma gladly marries her benefactor but finds real love when heroic Lord Nelson visits Naples. The story starts slowly, and the Cavaliere's relation as collector to the collected Emma seems too obvious. But as Sontag warms to her subject, the novel becomes rich, expansive, and highly entertaining, right down to the slambang final chapters whose rapidly shifting voices suddenly provide new perspective. Hardly digressions, Sontag's many aesthetic speculations wonderfully enhance the plot. A fine novel of ideas, this is sure to please venturesome readers of historical romance as well. Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 4/15/92.--Barbara Hoffert, ``Library Journal''
Kirkus Reviews
The first novel in over 20 years by America's preeminent belletrist is a historical tour de force. This tale of 18th-century romance and revolution is certain to charm readers who enjoy the postmodern potboilers of Umberto Eco and A.S. Byatt. After a pretentious prologue about her role as author, Sontag dives into the grand drama of the English nobleman William Hamilton, ambassador to the Kingdom of Two Sicilies, the Bourbon monarchy based in Naples. "Il Cavaliere," as he's called by his hosts, fancies himself "an envoy of decorum and reason" to the grotesque King. Where Sir William delights in collecting art and artifacts, and exploring the great volcano at Vesuvius, the fat King devotes himself to gluttony and impregnating his ambitious wife. After the Cavaliere's frail wife dies at age 44, the melancholic ambassador returns to England, where he grows infatuated with his nephew's mistress, a stunning beauty from the lower classes who mixes charm with vulgarity. Seeking a wealthy wife, the nephew passes his mistress to his uncle, now back in Naples. And soon follows a scandalous marriage between the 56-year- old ambassador and the 20-year-old lady of dubious virtue. A quick study, as well as a much-painted subject, Lady Emma Hamilton becomes the toast of Naples and the Queen's confidante. Her fall into infamy begins when she meets the hero of the age, Lord Nelson, "the saviour of the royalist cause." In outline, this seems little more than the Vivien Leigh melodrama That Hamilton Woman. But Sontag adds such historical texture to her saga of sexual intrigue that it all comes to sordid life, full of passion and politics. Her warts-and-all version of history relies on a profoundimagining of each character's point of view. At once heady and heartfelt, this is Sontag's best bid for a popular audience.

From the Publisher

“A passionate and often radical novel of ideas that affords all the old-fashioned pleasures of a traditional historical novel.” —The New York Times

“A great novel. It repeatedly scales heights of complex thought, passion, and expression that few American writers ever approach, while reimagining a majestic love story in dazzling style.” —Philadelphia Inquirer

“A panoramic, passionately feminist examination of the changing shape of Western civilization since the Age of Enlightenment. Sontag's book is a sweeping, exquisitely detailed picture of Europe in the final decades of the eighteenth century.” —Chicago Sun-Times

“A slippery, intelligent, provocative, and gripping book.” —The Washington Post Book World

“A novel Susan Sontag was destined to write, a shift from the moral intelligence of the essayist to the intelligent heart of the novelist. To her admirers, the novel will only confirm her originality, and perhaps win over a whole new set of readers. For The Volcano Lover is not just a thinking woman's (or man's) historical romance but a sly, luminously insightful, provocative novel.” —The Nation

“A brilliant performance.” —Chicago Tribune

“An historical tour de force. This tale of eighteenth-century romance and revolution is certain to charm readers who enjoy the postmodern potboilers of Umberto Eco and A. S. Byatt.” —Kirkus Review

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780385267137
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
08/01/1993
Pages:
419
Product dimensions:
6.10(w) x 9.30(h) x 0.94(d)

Meet the Author

Susan Sontag's most recent novel, In America, won the National Book Award in 2000. She has written novels, stories, plays, and essays. Her books are translated into thirty-two languages. In 2001 she was awarded the Jerusalem Prize for the body of her work.

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Volcano Lover 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 4 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Wonderful historical fiction. Read it & discuss it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
It was THAT boring. Don't bother with this book. The author seems as if she just stepped out of a Literature 101 class and is presenting her lessons learned with overwritten tedious bits of information that have no direction or placement in the story. It constantly goes from one place to the next. With that she throws in all these "places" that you must refer back to as reading. Basically it sucks and it's BORING. that's it.