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Review of The Volcano, Montserrat and Me by Lally Brown

October 26, 2019


I finished reading this book a couple of days ago, and it’s taken me a bit of time to come down after the experience. What on earth can I say about this remarkable woman, Lally Brown, other than that I’m completely awestruck. Lally and her husband courageously lived for three years under the threat of the very active and angry Volcano in the Soufrières Hills in Montserrat. Her husband was appointed to work for a government organisation there in 1995 and within days of their arrival on this beautiful island, the volcano decided to wake up and cause years of maximum stress to all concerned.

This book is a remarkable account of the day-to-day lives of those dealing with the growling, fluctuating and spitting beast that was Montserrat’s volcano. I felt as if I was living through the whole three years with Lally and her neighbours and I honestly don’t know how she and the islanders remained sane. Not only was there the constant reshuffling of homes from areas that increasingly fell into the danger zones, but there were also the health threats prompted by the fallout from the volcano’s ‘burps’. Added to that were the tension, fear and very real danger. Tragedy struck when it was least expected  and the islanders were shaken into leaving in their droves, but Lally and her husband stayed on, right up until 1998.

What I loved about the book was all the vignettes of the local characters. Lally Brown is clearly a very kind person and she gained the affection and loyalty of many of the islanders and she describes them with real love in her pen. I also loved the snippets of local speech and the descriptions of the events and customs that coloured the people’s lives, including the somewhat colonial style of the administration.

The narrative changes frequently from past to present and back again, which I found effective as a means of drawing me in and then making me stand back to view the bigger picture. It’s a fascinating and absorbing story, but it was also quite an emotional rollercoaster. For lovers of memoir, volcanos and history, I would recommend this highly, and I’ll look forward to reading Lally Brown’s other memoir before too long.


The link to the book is here

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  1. An excellent review Val which has certainly peeked my interest.

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