0328 | Under the Volcano | Malcolm Lowry

0328 | Under the Volcano | Lowry

Context: As I was struggling to reach the end of this, I finally got myself a practice amp for my guitar.


When I bought this in second hand bookshop in Barcelona on the 20th of August 2007, I would have been surprised if you’d told me that I wouldn’t finish it until October 2010. But life happens and I finished this the day before yesterday. I didn’t find it an easy read at all but I did appreciate the content; it’s a little like Graham Greene meets Garcia Marquez. It also means that I can still count on 1 finger the number of books from Latin/South America that I’ve enjoyed.

Geoffrey Firmin used to be Consul in some town in Mexico I can’t even read let alone pronounce or remember how to spell. He’s now moved on to being an alcoholic and it’s no surprise as his wife has left him and he suspects her of having affairs with various men about town who he has to meet and be polite to on a daily basis. His brother is also suspect.

His wife turns up unexpectedly to spend the Day of the Dead with him and his brother and things do not go well for Geoffrey. He spends most of the day in an alcoholic stupor and further revelations that his wife still loves him, apparently, and that he failed to receive any of the letters she wrote attempting reconciliation only push him further into his mescal. This culminates in him finally escaping his miseries at the bottom of a ravine.

It’s not very uplifting, I have to say. What redeems the book is the fact that it is very intricately written. However, this, for me, was its downfall.  If you’re normal, as I am of course, you’ll know that Lowry is a very clever writer but you’ll have a hard time putting your finger on why. Additionally, some of his ‘clever’ writing will really irritate you. I really don’t need to read the menu that a character is reading. I really don’t. Tell me that they’re reading a menu and that’s fine. But a page of a Spanish menu is going to do nothing for me.

So, I liked the exploration of the character and how he’s overtaken by his misery. I liked the references to the landscape and, when I finally realised what they were, I liked the bouts of drunken realism. But the book was just slightly beyond what I can cope with at my current stage of understanding novels. Shame.

It does have a great and memorable last line though.


Two mountain chains traverse the republic, roughly from north to south, forming between them a number of valleys and plateaux.


Somebody threw a dead dog after him down the ravine.


0328 | Under the Volcano | Lowry | 68% | Good

Key: Legacy | Plot / toPic | Characterisation / faCts | Readability | Achievement Read more about how I come up with my ratings

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  1. That is a pretty strange review of Under the Volcano but I am glad you have read it ,it is a tremendous piece of work.
    May I suggest that you re-think the view you have on the menu ,which seems to regard it as a bit of pointless copy?
    If a good writer puts something in it is for a reason.That is part of the pleasure of great novels.
    Good luck with the plan.

    1. Hey Chris… thanks for the comment. I’ll tell you what… if you re-think calling my review strange then I’ll re-think my comment on the menu. If a good blogger puts something in it is for a reason. That is part of the pleasure of great blogs.

      heh heh…

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