The Volcano Lover

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
The Volcano Lover
The Volcano Lover (Sontag novel).jpg
Author Susan Sontag
Publisher Farrar Straus Giroux
Publication date
Pages 419 pp
ISBN 978-0-374-28516-6
OCLC 25874591

The Volcano Lover is a 1992 novel by Susan Sontag. Set largely in Naples, it focuses upon Emma Hamilton, her marriage to Sir William Hamilton, the scandal relating to her affair with Lord Nelson, her abandonment, and her descent into poverty. The title comes from William Hamilton's interest in volcanos, and his investigations of Mount Vesuvius.


The Volcano Lover has been praised by literary critics. Lettie Ransley of The Guardian called it "as big, rich and complex as one might expect" and wrote, "The Volcano Lover is a powerful, intricate novel of ideas: frequently inflected with Sontag's feminism, it applies a modern lens to the Enlightenment's moral, social and aesthetic concerns. Yet it is also a tender inventory of desire: intricately mapping the modulation from the cold mania of the collector to the lover's passion."[1] The writer John Banville praised the work, despite noting that Sontag's decision to write a romantic historical novel was "a surprise." He remarked, "The Volcano Lover, despite a few nods of acknowledgment toward post-modernist self-awareness, is a big, old-fashioned broth of a book. Sir Walter Scott would surely have approved of it; in fact, he would probably have enjoyed it immensely."[2] The novel was also praised by the critic Michiko Kakutani of The New York Times.[3] Candia McWilliam of The Independent lauded the book, opining:

In The Volcano Lover height and control are buoyed up by clear thinking; although it descants, sometimes at essay length, upon abstractions, there is no 'cabinet of curiosities' disjunction between rumination and fiction such as decks so many modern novels in fustian. Sontag embroils the reader in her greater themes through the truth and tact of her depiction of smaller, no less preoccupying events.[4]

Conversely, the literary critic and frequent Sontag detractor[5] Camille Paglia dismissed the novel as pedestrian, writing that it showed Sontag's "incomprehension of any era before her own."[6]


  1. ^ Ransley, Lettie (12 February 2011). "The Volcano Lover by Susan Sontag – review". The Guardian. Retrieved February 9, 2016. 
  2. ^ Banville, John (August 9, 1992). "By Lava Possessed". The New York Times. Retrieved February 9, 2016. 
  3. ^ Kakutani, Michiko (August 4, 1992). "Books of The Times; Historical Novel Flavored With Passion and Ideas". The New York Times. Retrieved February 23, 2016. 
  4. ^ McWilliam, Candia (26 September 1992). "BOOK REVIEW / Three bedazzled eyes: 'The Volcano Lover' - Susan Sontag: Cape, 14.99 pounds". The Independent. Retrieved February 9, 2016. 
  5. ^ Appelo, Tim; Berkman, Meredith (September 18, 1992). "Camille Paglia vs. Susan Sontag -- The two authors face off with fighting words". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved February 23, 2016. 
  6. ^ Paglia, Camille. Vamps and Tramps: New Essays. Penguin Books, 1995, p. 353.