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on 15 May 2017
Under the Volcano is the most remarkable book I have ever read, not the best, just the most remarkable. It is certainly not an easy book to read and as a story it does not include much action. When I originally finished it I admit I was a little disappointed with the ending. But the more I thought about it the more remarkable I found the whole book. What Lowry has done has created a structure out of words, a very carefuly crafted structure. You come to understand why it took so many years to write and why Lowry would throw away entire chapters and rewrite them.

Under the Volcano is metaphor built on metaphor, where everything has mulitple meanings, depths within depths. The story eventually reaching a crescendo where metaphor and reality meet. This book will stand many readings as there are still themes and threads to the story whose meaning eludes me and yet the parts I do understand mark this book as something truly unique in literature.
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on 30 July 2016
I first read this at college and this is the third time I have read it. Be warned it is very hard work - some sentences, reflecting Geoffrey Firmin's state of mind, are very long indeed and require two or threee readings and a Spanish dictionary is helpful. Lowry wrote an extraordinary letter to his publisher which gives an insight into the book's symbolism which can be found in Douglas Day's biography which is also recommended to throw light on some of Lowry's obsessions. Having said all this the book rewards the effort and at the end you feel you want to start again to complete the circle of meaning. I think this is one of the greatest novels of the 20th century.
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on 30 November 2013
A day in the life of, Geoffrey Firmin, an alcoholic, the fall of man played out under civilized 20th century conditions, 'Under The Volcano' certainly promises a literary summit of the modern era. And the quality of the writing goes far in ascending such rarefied heights. It's taut and poetic, sometimes tortuous, breathtakingly assured, rich in vocabulary and often dense with allusion and symbolism. Yet never, in my opinion, difficult or impenetrable, as is sometimes the case with high modern literature.

I would add that its structure is also carefully fulfilled. After a brief first chapter, postscript or epilogue, where two subsidiary characters reflect obliquely on the story's events - M.Laruelle providing background on he and Geoffrey Firmin's childhood connection - the novel proceeds with an hour by hour re-telling of the events of that fateful day of days, on Mexico's macabre and vibrant festival Day of The Dead. What's more, within the linear structure of the unfolding day lie delicately chaotic, time-lapsed, dazed spells and passages, evoking the drunken haze and mescal miasma engulfing the protagonist's mindset. It disorientates in an analogous way.

That said, I have a couple of criticisms. It's never evident exactly what caused such dramatic, undying love and affection in the heart of Yvonnne, Geoffrey Firmin's moonstruck ex-wife, who returns on the scene to salvage him/their relationship, though he remains, presumably, as ever before, an inveterate, self-absorbed, determined drunk. She's a bit of a sap.

And Firmin himself, I have to confess, is rather dull, rather self-serious, with a tedious habit of academic posing. The classic and literary references that abound, however apt, to me, often distract, hinder momentum. Perhaps this weakness for high brow allusion is something in the blood of the author.

On the whole though, an impressive novel, at turns vital, disturbing, frustrating and devastating.
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on 5 May 2015
No doubt a classic but a very difficult read. Basically a story about a rich English bloke who is an alcoholic in central Mexico and his erstwhile wife, an ex-child movie star. As noted elsewhere the prose is outstanding but a whole book describing being drunk? Easily the best descriptive essay on the topic but by the end I longed for a story. I won't spoil the ending but it stretches your belief and adds a rather surreal, and abrupt, ending to this tedious, rambling monologue. It took me six months to read and I'm generally a book a week person. Beware!
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on 7 April 2016
It's not the easiest read, and doesn't flow all the time, but it is a great book. It took me a while to finish it, and I put it down for weeks at a time before finally knuckling down to finish it.

It's evocative and atmospheric, depressing and tragic. As far as Mexico and its people go, it feels very authentic.
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on 13 May 2018
More or less a new copy!
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on 21 May 2015
This book lives up to the hype. Its not an easy read but very rewarding and I agree that it is one of the 100 great novels of the 20 Century.
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on 11 March 2014
This is one of those novels that you can read three or four times in full and read bits of even more often...I found the word 'ghibbous' to describe a moon that is greater than half and less than full in it years ago and have used it in my thought and writing processes ever since....go read...
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on 12 October 2016
Very good deal!
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on 12 January 2015
A work of genius. How fortunate you are if you haven't yet read it.
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