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A Visit from Voltaire [Paperback]

Dinah Lee KŁng
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
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Book Description

18 Mar 2004

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 wig is the last straw. Though she begs him to go home, he unpacks his mouldy trunk instead. Slowly V. becomes her warmest friend as they laugh and quarrel, and he teaches her the best lesson of all: how to live life to its fullest.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Halban Publishers; New edition edition (18 Mar 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1870015843
  • ISBN-13: 978-1870015844
  • Product Dimensions: 3 x 13.8 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 739,899 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Dinah Lee Küng is the author of three comic novels, "A Visit From Voltaire", "Under Their Skin" and "Love and the Art of War", and also the trilogy, "The Handover Mysteries", set in Hong Kong during the transition years 1996-2002 and published under the name D. L. Kung.

Also available as a Kindle e-book is her three-act play, "Dear Mr Rogge," which won a commendation in the BBC World Service-British Council's international Playwriting Contest 2009.

Küng became a novelist after twenty years of reporting from Asia, (primarily China and Hong Kong) for newspapers and magazines, including the Economist, Business Week, the International Herald Tribune and National Public Radio.

"A Visit From Voltaire" was nominated for the Orange Prize for Fiction/Bailey's Prize for Women's Fiction in 2004.

"Beneath the surface of a light-hearted comedy, Dinah Lee Küng addresses a wide range of serious questions-- how much energy and passion is put into any lasting literary work, how literary friendships are never free from jealousy, and what posterity and ideals really mean," says The London Student.

"Under Their Skin" is a touching love story set in the international community in Geneva. Shirley Curran, reviewer for the popular website "Geneva Lunch," writes:
"This novel follows various threads, sometimes with delicious humour (as, for example, Shino's tattoos are removed from his most private places) to great pathos as we get to know Mira. The threads are brilliantly woven together in a very moving finale. This novel is tremendous fun to read. There is an added pleasure in the familiar Genevan landscape that is evoked throughout the novel and the gentle humour at the expense of the Swiss."

"The Handover Mysteries" also garnered critical praise:
--Kung delivers a touching story enriched by its strong atmosphere--Publishers Weekly, Starred Review
--It would be easy to assume that Hong Kong is populated solely by spies and incredibly rich people who made their fortunes off the backs of peasants. What distinguishes this book is a compelling sense of place. This is a Hong Kong readers don't come across very often and the author brings the city alive. It's an unusual debut-- The Chicago Tribune

Go to www.dinahleekung.com for more information.

Product Description

Book Description

A witty tale about the unlikeliest of friends.

From the Publisher

'A Visit From Voltaire' has been longlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction 2004.

Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
4.6 out of 5 stars
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
62 of 62 people found the following review helpful
I really, really loved this book. Voltaire comes back to life, not as a spook, but more an affectionate, avuncular nag in wig askew and ink-stained britches. Visible only to the author, his indomitable ego fills the pages with witticisms, verbal sparring and massive intellect. We learn about his life and times - but Kung has given him an entirely consistent, and insatiable appetite to continue his work after his death. With her help, he taps into the internet to lobby for human rights - and despite her efforts to curb his use of her credit card, he dabbles once again in the financial markets. The story is rich in character, dialogue and insight, fleshed out with her own confiding in the ghost about experiences she can't quite leave behind. He ages from a talented but self-centred salon lounge lizard to a frail humanitarian who has seen it all. He drinks gallons of coffee, takes snuff and wears fresh, clean clothes every day. She finds a way to make the best use of her new life in Switzerland and outgrow the vanities of her life before arriving in a small Swiss village.

This is a stimulating novel, rich and uncynical.
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71 of 72 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars the best of all possible reads. 26 Aug 2003
By A Customer
In a world where most authors, other than the avowedly academic, appear to strive to fall within the neat categories of marketing departments, how refreshing it is to come across a book which resolutely, though unconsciously, defies such pidgeonholing.
Informed throughout by a wonderful sense of humour, "A Visit From Voltaire" is by turns a description, both serious and hilarious, of family life in a new and unfamiliar environment; an introduction to 18th Century cultural life; and, via a series of vignettes linking similar events in different times (the Author's and Voltaire's), a comment on political and religious corruption and intolerance.
Above all though, "A Visit From Voltaire" has, at its heart, the development from rocky beginnings of a wonderful friendship between the Author and Voltaire - Voltaire emerges not only as the champion of justice and tolerance that we are all aware of, but as a delightfully idiosyncratic and human character, fully capable of moving between his era and ours, where he finds his ideals still under attack and where his unflagging energy and honesty are still as necessary as ever. Whether adapting to the internet or revisiting old haunts in London, his zest for life is contagious. The development of the friendship between the Author and Voltaire is beautifully handled and I was as sad as the Author when they finally parted. How I wish he had stayed. I had so much I wanted to ask him.
As with all good books, I was inspired to do a number of things - learn more about the man and his century (a very helpful bibliography is provided); renew my contact with Amnesty International; Revisit Bernstein and take a look at my wardrobe.
All this in addition to a wonderful read. How could you resist?
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45 of 46 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Visit from Voltaire 24 Jan 2004
I thought this was just about the most entertaining book I have read during the last year. Voltaire is a hilarious visitor - who annoys and entertains the author constantly during her battles to become adjusted to a totally different way of life with her family in a new country. It is completely orginal in its concept, funny, honest, soul searching and vivid - and erudite in a totally readable way. It's a book I am recommending to all my friends and anyone else who will listen!
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars charming, witty, laugh-out-loud funny 6 Jun 2003
Author Dinah Lee Kung pulls off in this book a superb feat of imaginative writing. A transplanted New Yorker trying to settle down in a Swiss village with her husband and three children, the narrator discovers an unexpected visitor in her chalet: Voltaire. As she deals with violin lessons, ski trips, broken legs, and dinner parties, she brings Voltaire to life in her 21st century imagination, his moods and poutiness as well as his brilliance and wit. The parallels are uncanny, unexpected, always insightful.
Each time I put this book down, a line or two would keep popping into my head and making me smile or laugh. By the time you finish reading this entertaining book, you will have fallen in love not only with Voltaire but with Dinah Lee Kung.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very funny and accurate, full of wisdom 20 Sep 2005
By A Customer
I really enjoyed the clever juxtiposition of Voltaire's retelling his formidable ups and down,( especially his downs,) to the author facing the frustrations of "exile" with family to this area of Switzerland, her Candide-like hapless befuddlement with her own searching travels and setbacks, and the way each chapter wove together three narrative threads. There was Voltaire's witty recap of his experiences, (sometimes you think he will never shut up) with her trying to make some sense of things, set against a burlesque backdrop of the local village. It isn't always funny, and sometimes a bit of a slow read, but I cried when she learns in the end to accept all the changes, to cultivate her garden. I think this book is quite original, and it really underscores the democracy of the written word. Anybody, no matter how humble, can invite the Greats into their life through books. Wonderful.
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