Mexican Food in London or a Brilliant Novel? Under the Volcano – #11

I have not posted in quite some time, and I place the blame squarely on our current book, Under the Volcano, by Malcolm Lowry! I just cannot get into this book, so I’m looking forward to just reading and writing our way out of this one.

Another Version of Under the Volcano
Another Version of Under the Volcano

Part of my issue with Under the Volcano is that it employs two of my least favorite literary devices. The first is a non-linear time frame. The book tells the story of the last day in the life of Geoffrey Firmin, a consul in a small Mexican town who is fighting a losing battle with alcoholism. Chapter one opens exactly one year after this event, so that was not a spoiler. I’m sure there were references to the fact that this first chapter was set a year later, but I missed them. When I got to Chapter 2 and realized the narrative had jumped, I had to consult Wikipedia reread Chapter 1 to figure out what had happened.

The second issue is that the point of view changes at each chapter, which was also confusing. I might actually enjoy the book if it did not employ these two devices. I’m an old-fashioned girl – I just like a three-act story arch!

If I could get past these two issues I might actually enjoy the book. For instance, in Chapter 3, Geoffrey tries to resist the temptation to drink whiskey, while the whiskey itself verbally tempts him. That was a brilliant piece of writing – I loved it. Beyond this mild hallucination, he lapses into other visions throughout the book, which make the main plot difficult to stay with at times.

While I’ve heard the book gets better around Chapter 5, I must say that I’m on Chapter 7 and I haven’t hit that magical moment yet! There’s still hope, though. Now that I’ve got a feel for the author’s style, I can keep track of the narrative a little better. This is doubly important now that I’ve just discovered during the writing of this that Wikipedia only details the first eight chapters of the book. Apparently I’m on my own after that!

Live Volcano

While researching I also discovered that Lowry himself died of alcoholism, making the book’s theme even more tragic. Finally, it was also interesting to discover that when one editor suggested some changes to the manuscript, Lowry sent a letter back to him explaining why he thought this book would have a lasting impact, and detailed the intent of each of the twelve chapters and how the key themes of each chapter tied together. I really, really wish I could get my hands on that letter.

Keep Reading! I know I will.. 5 more chapters to go!

3 thoughts on “Mexican Food in London or a Brilliant Novel? Under the Volcano – #11

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