It is my belief that Malcolm Lowry wrote the last chapter of this novel (12) some time before the other chapters (1-11), and my advice is to begin reading the Volcano with the last chapter - (but who am I to give advice? - Lowry himself suggested that this book required twenty readings, and I have read it only a dozen times.) To a "new" reader, it might be best to begin by reading the novel at Chapter Twelve, the end. And another thing: Lowry read this entire monstrosity aloud, mostly to his long-suffering wife and his few friends; every single word of this novel is spoken; so try this and take turns with your guy or gal - eventually, I hope, you will tune-in to the author's voice, and I hope that it is the distinct voice of the book that will carry you through all of its tragic pages. And yet another thing: why not read the Chapters in reverse order? Malcolm Lowry does not care how you approach his novel - he's dead! - and maybe he did not have much talent as a writer, but I feel that Malc has lovingly stuffed the Volcano with so much stuff, that the novel assumes some sort of organic life of its own, with internal organs and the means to travel from A to B, or from B to A, such that one might be inclined to take it for a walk on a leash, if only to frighten the neighbours.
Will this novel still be read 50 or 100 years from now, along with "Heart of Darkness", "Cannery Row" and "Catch-22"?? on an i-thing? - who can tell. I'll be dead by then myself, so I hardly care. This book has so much life in it that it has become a valued friend to me, even when I hate it. It will be inside my box when the flames consume me. "Can one be faithful to Yvonne and the Farolito both?" - you decide, and then send me the answer on a postcard.