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Under the Volcano: A Novel | [Malcolm Lowry]

Under the Volcano: A Novel

On the Day of the Dead, in 1938, Geoffrey Firmin, an alcoholic and ruined man, is fatefully living out his last day, drowning himself in mescal while his former wife and half-brother look on, powerless to help him. The events of this one day unfold against a backdrop unforgettable for its evocation of a Mexico at once magical and diabolical.
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Publisher's Summary

On the Day of the Dead, in 1938, Geoffrey Firmin, an alcoholic and ruined man, is fatefully living out his last day, drowning himself in mescal while his former wife and half-brother look on, powerless to help him. The events of this one day unfold against a backdrop unforgettable for its evocation of a Mexico at once magical and diabolical.

©1947 Peter Matson; (P)2009 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What the Critics Say

"The book obviously belongs with the most original and creative novels of our time." (Alfred Kazin)
"One of the towering novels of [the twentieth] century." (New York Times)
"[Lowry's] masterpiece...has a claim to being regarded as one of the ten most consequential works of fiction produced in this century...." (Los Angeles Times)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.2 (87 )
5 star
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3 star
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Overall
3.3 (53 )
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2 star
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1 star
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Story
3.4 (52 )
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2 star
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1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Melinda Shoreline, WA, United States 12-07-10
    Melinda Shoreline, WA, United States 12-07-10 Member Since 2009

    I love literary fiction and I occasionally delve into non-fiction. I love books that are suspenseful and am really into well-told stories.

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    "Excellent...but not for everyone"

    I loved this story of a day-long drunken binge told from 3 different viewpoints, but I know that not everyone liked it (ask my book club)...but I thought it was classic. It gets tough in some places, but I found Under the Volcano to be a wonderful tale in a vast desert of somewhat underwhelming books. 5 stars for writing and 5 stars for narration.

    5 of 5 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marcus Vorwaller Seattle, WA USA 02-09-10
    Marcus Vorwaller Seattle, WA USA 02-09-10
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    "Great book, slightly flawed narration"

    It took me awhile to warm up to this book. For the first hour or two I seriously considered quitting it but I'm glad I didn't. It gets more and more beautiful and more tragic with every chapter. The symbolism and metaphors build on themselves and the descriptions flow smoothly into plot. The literary references (the ones I actually caught) are fun and add another layer of meaning to the story. By the end I was sitting in my driveway long after arriving home entranced with the story. Stick out the beginning, it's worth it!

    The narration was great except that the Lee's Spanish pronunciation leaves a *lot* to be desired. Understanding the bits that are in Spanish isn't key to understanding the book but I found it distracting to hear the pretty blatant mistakes. Other than that though, it's a really, really well-done production.

    7 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Barry Petaluma, CA, United States 09-25-12
    Barry Petaluma, CA, United States 09-25-12 Member Since 2006

    My interests run to psychology, popular science, history, world literature, and occasionally something fun like Jasper Fforde. It seems like the only free time I have for reading these days is when I'm in the car so I am extremely grateful for audio books. I started off reading just the contemporary stuff that I was determined not to clutter up my already stuffed bookcases with. And now audio is probably 90% of my "reading" matter.

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    "There sure is a lot of symbolism"

    I don't know if there's any way to express my disappointment with this book that doesn't involve spoilers, so I'll start with what I liked about it. Lowry does an awesome job of delineating his characters. Their attitudes and feelings are completely understandable and realistic. Lowry's use of imagery, motifs, and symbolism are masterful. He builds his story layer by layer with rising intensity right up to the end. The story that he tells--of a man bent on destroying himself--is compelling in an existential sort of way. So why, when all is said and done, do I feel less than satisfied with the book as a whole? That is a question I suppose I will be pondering for a long time.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    W.Denis Savannah, GA, United States 05-05-09
    W.Denis Savannah, GA, United States 05-05-09
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    "Be prepaired"

    I will listen to John Lee read any book and when I investigated the history and Author I was set for a great experience. I am also quite sensable to an alcoholics recovery process and this book would be an excellent AA case study. That said, I often found myself listening to long descriptive sections and wishing the author would get on with the story. Because this is said to be an epic novel I was reluctant to miss anything. I certainly learned a lot about Mexico in the mid-thirties. Be prepared to listen diligently and perhaps you will come away more intheusiastic than I am.

    8 of 13 people found this review helpful
  •  
    kd TX, USA 07-24-14
    kd TX, USA 07-24-14 Member Since 2012

    kd

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    "Someone else should read this"

    John Lee's odd humming reading style killed this story for me entirely. His various foreign accents, while very good, are distracting and pull one out of the story. I could not follow what he was saying at all.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Stephen El Paso, TX, United States 02-23-14
    Stephen El Paso, TX, United States 02-23-14 Member Since 2012
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    "Under the Volcano"

    I recommend buying this recording as long you are not seeking a fast pace story.

    This is an English language classic. Thus, I will not comment on this story from literary angle but from my taste in entertainment.

    Overall, I did not mind it was 14-hour slide to the death of the main character. It was interesting study of the region, the character, and the time. Much of the internal dialogue was from the main character, his former wife, and his brother. This part was interesting and the prose was very good.

    Its detractor is that it is a slow tragedy with very little action and depressing as all stories about addicts who seem doomed from the outset. In addition, the writer overdoes his descriptive prose. It seems he can look any object, scene, and event; and turn it into a word picture even if it is irrelevant to the story or flow. A simple sidebar when the main character is crossing a street evoke was necessary for the author to comment and elaborate on. It was colorful but seems unnecessary.

    The production was excellent: the disc maker announced the beginning and end of each disc, the actor was very good and he immersed me well in each character, etc.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Marcus Grove Hill, AL, United States 06-02-13
    Marcus Grove Hill, AL, United States 06-02-13 Member Since 2013
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    "Excellent book"
    Where does Under the Volcano rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

    This is one of the best books I have ever listened to. It was very well read.


    What did you like best about this story?

    I liked the way the angles and foreshadowing all came to a blurry crash at the end.


    Have you listened to any of John Lee’s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    No


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No


    Any additional comments?

    Again, this was a great book. I highly recommend it.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Robin Lea Portland, OR, United States 03-24-13
    Robin Lea Portland, OR, United States 03-24-13 Member Since 2012
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    "Sad Story"
    What did you like best about Under the Volcano? What did you like least?

    The scenic backdrop of Mexico and it's incredible natural beauty. There are many passages in Spanish which I understood, but, having spent some time there, the delivery would have brought blank stares or smiles of amusement from the locals.


    Any additional comments?

    This story is a thinly veiled autobiography of Lowry. It's a sad tale of an alcoholic's spiral into the abyss. It would probably be a good idea to read about the author beforehand. But, the sumptuous descriptions of the Mexican outdoors and insight into the culture which I have experienced myself saved it from being a turnoff altogether.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    gnudung Seattle, WA, United States 08-22-11
    gnudung Seattle, WA, United States 08-22-11 Member Since 2007

    un petit d'un petit

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    "challenged narrator . . ."

    Many books contain passages in more than one language. John Lee, a reader I have liked before now, should restrict himself to narrating books written entirely in English. His Spanish pronunciation is . . . excecrable. Malcolm Lowry's text deserves better.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    McDonough Salt Lake City, UT, United States 09-13-11
    McDonough Salt Lake City, UT, United States 09-13-11
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    "Get a Different Edition"

    For the first time in my life I couldn't finish a book. To say that the performance by John Lee is unlistenable is, in my opinion, giving the performance too much credit. For a story that utilizes as much Spanish you'd think that the performer would be able to put together more than a slurred Italian interpretation. I'd rather listen to Brad Pitt read Cormac McCarthy.

    2 of 5 people found this review helpful
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  • T
    Leighton Buzzard, United Kingdom
    2/20/14
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    "brilliant book, but beware of the narration"

    Often voted one of the greatest books of the 20th Century, this book should not disappoint. Unfortunately in my case, it did somewhat because John Lee's narration was so very poor when reading the many places and phrases in Spanish/Mexican. John has a great voice and his style suits sci-fi particularly well, but he desperately needed coaching before taking this one on.

    That said, please do what you can to ignore the pronunciation issue because the story itself is very rewarding. Under The Volcano is cleverly constructed, rich in symbolism and literary references - which is why I had put off reading the book, as it sounded intimidating! Thankfully this is not the case and it can be enjoyed simply as an extraordinary tragedy, lightened with great humour and wit. And I'll listen again and hope to get more of the literary stuff!

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
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