PRINT November 1992


Susan Sontag's The Volcano Lover: A Romance

The Volcano Lover: A Romance, by Susan Sontag. New York: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1992.

SUSAN SONTAG’S NOVEL The Volcano Lover: A Romance is the story of Sir William Hamilton, British ambassador to the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies for forty-odd years; his low-born but high-spirited (some would say bumptious) wife, Emma; and her famous boyfriend, Admiral Lord Nelson. It is also the story of Naples, one of the great cities of the 18th century, and latterly a tale of the Neapolitan Revolution. Sontag is obviously fond of this period, and she does a pretty good job of weaving the historical particulars into an engaging fictional narrative. Also, in spite of her reputation as a pointy-headed modernist savant, she doesn’t skimp on the stuff that aficionados of historical fiction crave—palace intrigue, specific points about decor and haberdashery, and set pieces both opulent and violent. A remake of

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