• The Volcano Lover

  • A Romance
  • By: Susan Sontag
  • Narrated by: Jennifer Van Dyck
  • Length: 14 hrs and 16 mins
  • Unabridged Audiobook
  • Release date: 02-09-11
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: Audible Studios
  • 4 out of 5 stars 4.2 (9 ratings)


The Volcano Lover follows the fortunes of a British ambassador, the ravishing woman he marries, and the young British admiral with whom she falls in love.
Set in 18th-century Naples and based on the lives of Sir William Hamilton, his celebrated wife Emma, and Lord Nelson, the novel is peopled with many of the great figures of the day. This unconventional, best-selling historical romance from the National Book Award-winning author of In America touches on themes of sex and revolution, the fate of nature, art and the collector's obsessions, and, above all, love.
©1992 Susan Sontag (P)2011 Audible, Inc.
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Critic reviews

"A panoramic, passionately feminist examination of the changing shape of Western civilisation since the Age of Enlightenment. Sontag's book is a sweeping, exquisitely detailed picture of Europe in the final decades of the eighteenth century." (Chicago Sun-Times)
"The Volcano Lover is a great novel. It repeatedly scales heights of complex thought, passion and expression that few American writers ever approach, while reimagining a majestic love story in dazzling style." (The Philadelphia Inquirer)
"Hardly digressions, Sontag's many aesthetic speculations wonderfully enhance the plot. A fine novel of ideas, this is sure to please venturesome readers of historical romance as well." (Library Journal)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
4 out of 5 stars
By Leon on 25-11-16

Splendid Prose

What made the experience of listening to The Volcano Lover the most enjoyable?

This is a fine novel and the author has reveals a good understanding of the time and place of the novel. This being no greater than many classical novels. What stands out for me is the prose of Susan Sontag. At times it is astonishing; even though it is very readable it often has a poetic quality of expression that is very enriching.

A very satisfying read (listen).

Have you listened to any of Jennifer Van Dyck’s other performances? How does this one compare?

No, I have not listened to Jennifer Van Dyck's other performances.
This performance is good, complimenting the novel.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

Being exposed to her vivid understanding of the emotional currents peculiar to the different sexes, is a valued experience.

Any additional comments?

The authors ''message'' is a little too overt.

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4 out of 5 stars
By Caroline Lawrence on 12-11-13

The Passion of Hamilton, Nelson, Emma & Vesuvius

Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

The "Volcano Lover" of the title is Sir William Hamilton, the envoy from England to Naples in the late 18th century. He is a collector and scholar, and soon fascinated by Vesuvius looming across the Bay. He makes many excursions up its flanks and watches when it erupts. The story really kicks in during part two when he meets Emma. She becomes his wife and soon Admiral Horatio Lord Nelson's mistress. Some brilliant descriptions of Naples under the French, life at sea and the fascinating passion of big Emma and little Nelson for each other, and their affection for her husband. The quirky style never explicitly names the main characters but calls Hamilton "The Cavaliere", Emma "The Cavaliere's Wife" and Nelson "The Hero". Sontag's staccato style takes a little getting used to but is worth the effort. Apart from some mispronunciations, Jennifer Van Dyck reads very well.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
5 out of 5 stars
By D. Donohue on 05-03-13

Enthralling. Impossible to remove my headphones.

What did you love best about The Volcano Lover?

Sontag gripped me. What do I love? History. Edgy. Thoughtful. Surprises. Romance. This delivered all beyond my expectations. I am still tingling and feel a sense of abandonment one feels when a great "read" ends.

What did you like best about this story?

Naples. Evocative descriptions. Art. Furious and spot-on conclusion that is literally the best conclusion of any novel ever - bar none - even my great beloveds of the Brontes, Wilkie Collins, Tolstoy, James. This is a great great read.

Which character – as performed by Jennifer Van Dyck – was your favorite?

Van Dyck is obliged to capture a variety of narrators: male and female, living and dead, and she nails them all. Her voice is like burnt caramel. I felt like Sontag was there, and I spoke to her. Van Dyck has her round tones and deep power.
She needs some work on Italian names, but I gave her 5 stars because I am still a true fan and would acquire any audiobook by her.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

The ending was like a punch in the chest and I love it completely.

Any additional comments?

I had the audiobook of Sontag's other novel, In America, and it was a love hate. The audio book was great, but the writing pissed me off for the first third. Afterwards, she redeemed herself and I was content. I had moderate expectations of this novel, and, from the beginning was flabbergasted. I never wanted to do anything other than listen. It is a great great work. This production is so worthy of a remarkable piece of writing.

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3 of 5 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars
By Robin Charleston on 22-09-17

The quips and aphorisms are the best part

This very literary historical romance novel, set for the most part in 18th-century Italy, is beautifully presented by the Audible narrator. With a strong plot and fascinating setting, the novel certainly held my interest. The characters, even the three main ones, are sketched in with broad strokes rather than finely detailed, but that's generally enough.

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