Pompeii

Pompeii

by Robert Harris

Paperback

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Overview

BESTSELLER - "Terrific... gripping... A literally shattering climax." — The New York Times Book Review 

All along the Mediterranean coast, the Roman empire’s richest citizens are relaxing in their luxurious villas, enjoying the last days of summer. The world’s largest navy lies peacefully at anchor in Misenum. The tourists are spending their money in the seaside resorts of Baiae, Herculaneum, and Pompeii.

But the carefree lifestyle and gorgeous weather belie an impending cataclysm, and only one man is worried. The young engineer Marcus Attilius Primus has just taken charge of the Aqua Augusta, the enormous aqueduct that brings fresh water to a quarter of a million people in nine towns around the Bay of Naples. His predecessor has disappeared. Springs are failing for the first time in generations. And now there is a crisis on the Augusta’ s sixty-mile main line—somewhere to the north of Pompeii, on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius.

Attilius—decent, practical, and incorruptible—promises Pliny, the famous scholar who commands the navy, that he can repair the aqueduct before the reservoir runs dry. His plan is to travel to Pompeii and put together an expedition, then head out to the place where he believes the fault lies. But Pompeii proves to be a corrupt and violent town, and Attilius soon discovers that there are powerful forces at work—both natural and man-made—threatening to destroy him.

With his trademark elegance and intelligence, Robert Harris, bestselling author of Archangel and Fatherland, re-creates a world on the brink of disaster.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780812974614
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 11/08/2005
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 97,896
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 7.99(h) x 0.65(d)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

Robert Harris is the author of nine bestselling novels: Fatherland, Enigma, Archangel, Pompeii, Imperium, The Ghost Writer, Conspirata, The Fear Index, and An Officer and a Spy. Several of his books have been adapted to film, including The Ghost Writer, directed by Roman Polanski. His work has been translated into 37 languages. He lives in the village of Kintbury, England, with his wife, Gill Hornby. www.robert-harris.com

Michael Cumpsty is a British actor and has been acting since childhood. He has worked extensively performing Shakespeare, as well as both musicals and dramas on Broadway. He also performs in films, and on television.

Read an Excerpt

MARS

22 August Two days before the eruption

CONTICINIUM [04:21 hours]

A strong correlation has been found between the magnitude of eruptions and the length of the preceding interval of repose. Almost all very large, historic eruptions have come from volcanoes that have been dormant for centuries. —JACQUES-MARIE BARDINTZEFF, ALEXANDER R. McBIRNEY, VOLCANOLOGY (SECOND EDITION)

They left the aqueduct two hours before dawn, climbing by moonlight into the hills overlooking the port—six men in single file, the engineer leading. He had turfed them out of their beds himself—all stiff limbs and sullen, bleary faces—and now he could hear them complaining about him behind his back, their voices carrying louder than they realized in the warm, still air.

“A fool's errand,” somebody muttered.

“Boys should stick to their books,” said another.

He lengthened his stride.

Let them prattle, he thought.

Already he could feel the heat of the morning beginning to build, the promise of another day without rain. He was younger than most of his work gang, and shorter than any of them: a compact, muscled figure with cropped brown hair. The shafts of the tools he carried slung across his shoulder—a heavy, bronze-headed axe and a wooden shovel—chafed against his sunburned neck. Still, he forced himself to stretch his bare legs as far as they would reach, mounting swiftly from foothold to foothold, and only when he was high above Misenum, at a place where the track forked, did he set down his burdens and wait for the others to catch up.

He wiped the sweat from his eyes on the sleeve ofhis tunic. Such shimmering, feverish heavens they had here in the south! Even this close to daybreak, a great hemisphere of stars swept down to the horizon. He could see the horns of Taurus, and the belt and sword of the Hunter; there was Saturn, and also the Bear, and the constellation they called the Vintager, which always rose for Caesar on the twenty-second day of August, following the Festival of Vinalia, and signaled that it was time to harvest the wine. Tomorrow night the moon would be full. He raised his hand to the sky, his blunt-tipped fingers black and sharp against the glittering constellations—spread them, clenched them, spread them again—and for a moment it seemed to him that he was the shadow, the nothing; the light was the substance.

From down in the harbor came the splash of oars as the night watch rowed between the moored triremes. The yellow lanterns of a couple of fishing boats winked across the bay. A dog barked and another answered. And then the voices of the laborers slowly climbing the path beneath him: the harsh local accent of Corax, the overseer—“Look, our new aquarius is waving at the stars!”—and the slaves and the free men, equals, for once, in their resentment if nothing else, panting for breath and sniggering.

The engineer dropped his hand. “At least,” he said, “with such a sky, we have no need of torches.” Suddenly he was vigorous again, stooping to collect his tools, hoisting them back onto his shoulder. “We must keep moving.” He frowned into the darkness. One path would take them westward, skirting the edge of the naval base. The other led north, toward the seaside resort of Baiae. “I think this is where we turn.”

“He thinks,” sneered Corax.

The engineer had decided the previous day that the best way to treat the overseer was to ignore him. Without a word he put his back to the sea and the stars, and began ascending the black mass of the hillside. What was leadership, after all, but the blind choice of one route over another and the confident pretense that the decision was based on reason?

The path here was steeper. He had to scramble up it sideways, sometimes using his free hand to pull himself along, his feet skidding, sending showers of loose stones rattling away in the darkness. People stared at these brown hills, scorched by summer brushfires, and thought they were as dry as deserts, but the engineer knew different. Even so, he felt his earlier assurance beginning to weaken, and he tried to remember how the path had appeared in the glare of yesterday afternoon, when he had first reconnoitered it. The twisting track, barely wide enough for a mule. The swaths of scorched grass. And then, at a place where the ground leveled out, flecks of pale green in the blackness—signs of life that turned out to be shoots of ivy reaching toward a boulder.

After going halfway up an incline and then coming down again, he stopped and turned slowly in a full circle. Either his eyes were getting used to it, or dawn was close now, in which case they were almost out of time. The others had halted behind him. He could hear their heavy breathing. Here was another story for them to take back to Misenum—how their new young aquarius had dragged them from their beds and marched them into the hills in the middle of the night, and all on a fool's errand. There was a taste of ash in his mouth.

“Are we lost, pretty boy?”

Corax's mocking voice again.

He made the mistake of rising to the bait: “I'm looking for a rock.”

This time they did not even try to hide their laughter.

“He's running around like a mouse in a pisspot!”

“I know it's here somewhere. I marked it with chalk.”

More laughter—and at that he wheeled on them: the squat and broad-shouldered Corax; Becco, the long-nose, who was a plasterer; the chubby one, Musa, whose skill was laying bricks; and the two slaves, Polites and Corvinus. Even their indistinct shapes seemed to mock him. “Laugh. Good. But I promise you this: either we find it before dawn or we shall all be back here tomorrow night. Including you, Gavius Corax. Only next time make sure you're sober.”

Silence. Then Corax spat and took a half step forward and the engineer braced himself for a fight. They had been building up to this for three days now, ever since he had arrived in Misenum. Not an hour had passed without Corax trying to undermine him in front of the men.

And if we fight, thought the engineer, he will win—it's five against one—and they will throw my body over the cliff and say I slipped in the darkness. But how will that go down in Rome—if a second aquarius of the Aqua Augusta is lost in less than a fortnight?

For a long instant they faced each other, no more than a pace between them, so close that the engineer could smell the stale wine on the older man's breath. But then one of the others—it was Becco—gave an excited shout and pointed.

Just visible behind Corax's shoulder was a rock, marked neatly in its center by a thick white cross.

Attilius was the engineer's name—Marcus Attilius Primus, to lay it out in full, but plain Attilius would have satisfied him. A practical man, he had never had much time for all these fancy handles his fellow countrymen went in for. (“Lupus,” “Panthera,” “Pulcher”—“Wolf,” “Leopard,” “Beauty”—who in hell did they think they were kidding?) Besides, what name was more honorable in the history of his profession than that of the gens Attilia, aqueduct engineers for four generations? His great-grandfather had been recruited by Marcus Agrippa from the ballista section of Legion XII “Fulminata” and set to work building Rome's Aqua Julia. His grandfather had planned the Anio Novus. His father had completed the Aqua Claudia, bringing her into the Esquiline Hill over seven miles of arches, and laying her, on the day of her dedication, like a silver carpet at the feet of the emperor. Now he, at twenty-seven, had been sent south to Campania and given command of the Aqua Augusta.

A dynasty built on water!

He squinted into the darkness. Oh, but she was a mighty piece of work, the Augusta—one of the greatest feats of engineering ever accomplished. It was going to be an honor to command her. Somewhere far out there, on the opposite side of the bay, high in the pine-forested mountains of the Apenninus, the aqueduct captured the springs of Serinus and bore the water westward—channeled it along sinuous underground passages, carried it over ravines on top of tiered arcades, forced it across valleys through massive siphons—all the way down to the plains of Campania, then around the far side of Mount Vesuvius, then south to the coast at Neapolis, and finally along the spine of the Misenum peninsula to the dusty naval town, a distance of some sixty miles, with a mean drop along her entire length of just two inches every one hundred yards. She was the longest aqueduct in the world, longer even than the great aqueducts of Rome and far more complex, for whereas her sisters in the north fed one city only, the Augusta's serpentine conduit—the matrix, as they called it: the motherline—suckled no fewer than nine towns around the Bay of Neapolis: Pompeii first, at the end of a long spur, then Nola, Acerrae, Atella, Neapolis, Puteoli, Cumae, Baiae, and finally Misenum.

And this was the problem, in the engineer's opinion. She had to do too much. Rome, after all, had more than half a dozen aqueducts: if one failed the others could make up the deficit. But there was no reserve supply down here, especially not in this drought, now dragging into its third month. Wells that had provided water for generations had turned into tubes of dust. Streams had dried up. Riverbeds had become tracks for farmers to drive their beasts along to market. Even the Augusta was showing signs of exhaustion, the level of her enormous reservoir dropping hourly, and it was this that had brought him out onto the hillside in the time before dawn when he ought to have been in bed.

From the leather pouch on his belt Attilius withdrew a small block of polished cedar with a chin rest carved into one side of it. The grain of the wood had been rubbed smooth and bright by the skin of his ancestors. His great-grandfather was said to have been given it as a talisman by Vitruvius, architect to the Divine Augustus, and the old man had maintained that the spirit of Neptune, god of water, lived within it. Attilius had no time for gods. Boys with wings on their feet, women riding dolphins, greybeards hurling bolts of lightning off the tops of mountains in fits of temper—these were stories for children, not men. He placed his faith instead in stones and water, and in the daily miracle that came from mixing two parts of slaked lime to five parts of puteolanum—the local red sand— conjuring up a substance that would set underwater with a consistency harder than rock.

But still—it was a fool who denied the existence of luck, and if this family heirloom could bring him that . . . He ran his finger around its edge. He would try anything once.

He had left his rolls of Vitruvius behind in Rome. Not that it mattered. They had been hammered into him since childhood, as other boys learned their Virgil. He could still recite entire passages by heart.

“These are the growing things to be found which are signs of water: slender rushes, wild willow, alder, chaste berry, ivy, and other things of this sort, which cannot occur on their own without moisture . . .”

“Corax over there,” ordered Attilius. “Corvinus there. Becco, take the pole and mark the place I tell you. You two: keep your eyes open.”

Corax gave him a look as he passed.

“Later,” said Attilius. The overseer stank of resentment almost as strongly as he reeked of wine, but there would be time enough to settle their quarrel when they got back to Misenum. For now they would have to hurry.

A gray gauze had filtered out the stars. The moon had dipped. Fifteen miles to the east, at the midpoint of the bay, the forested pyramid of Mount Vesuvius was becoming visible. The sun would rise behind it.

“This is how to test for water: lie face down, before sunrise, in the places where the search is to be made, and with your chin set on the ground and propped, survey these regions. In this way the line of sight will not wander higher than it should, because the chin will be motionless . . .”

Copyright© 2003 by Robert Harris

Reading Group Guide

1. 'It struck me that Rome might be a way to write about America' —Robert Harris
Robert Harris had initially set out to write about a utopia gone wrong, set in the future and created by a giant American corporation, he even originally researched the Walt Disney 'empire'. Do you think the Roman Empire is an interesting way to write about a modern day superpower? What are the similarities with current global events?

2. There is a current vogue in film (Gladiator, Troy, Alexander the Great) as well as books for classical themes — why do you think this is? What are the parallels with our society?

3. Harris has referred to 'toga resistance' because so much about the Romans — their habits, assumptions, they way they speak, even their names — can be alienating to a contemporary audience. Do you feel he succeeds in being readable and authentic?

4. The ability to disguise the outcome is held to be a vital part of the thriller writer's art. Pompeii is a 'known-ending story' — how successful do you think the author has been in building tension despite this? Where does the suspense lie? Does he use the reader's foreknowledge to good effect?

5. 'I was interested in power and those who seek power' —Robert Harris
Discuss the theme of power, corruption and greed within the novel — particularly in light of the apocalyptic ending. Also, the forces of nature versus civilisation and town versus countryside.

6. The epigraphs to the chapters are extracts from volcanology texts — what purpose do you think these serve? Do they work, along with the four-day structure, as a narrative device? If so, how?

7. Harris has an accessible but informed style of writing. He spent three years researching Pompeii. Has he convincingly blurred fact with the pace of fiction for you? Are plot twists chosen over nuances of character and does this matter to you?

8. Attilius is an aquarius, the structure of the novel moves from water to fire — discuss the theme of water within the novel.

9. The story of Attilius and his unfulfilled love for Corelia adds a very human dimension to the novel. Do you feel this is an effective subplot?

From the Hardcover edition.

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Pompeii 3.8 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 140 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
When I was first assigned this book for my Ancient Civilizations class I was not exactly excited to read it. I actually dreaded it. I am not the type of person to read historical fiction novels just for fun. But when I picked it up I realized about half way through that I was not able to put it down. Overall i loved the book. It did take me a while to get into because the beginning was pretty much just useless information that kept dragging on but when i got about half way into the book things really started to pick up. I even read over weekends which is very unusual for me. The book was filled with totally accurate and very interesting information but on the side it also had a little mystery, action, and even some romance. I really enjoyed this book and I would recommend it to anyone and I'm not just saying that, I'm not a big reader especially a historical fiction reader but in all honesty this is now one of my
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This story really kept me interested. I had read true accounts of the disaster and a recent show on volcanoes set me looking for fictional stories based on the story of the ruins. This was an excellent fast read and kept me enthralled until the end.
PhilipMA More than 1 year ago
I was pleasantly surprised having not known the author or tried a sample. Good story, strong characters and interesting setting.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I picked up this book because my family comes from Torre Del Greco, a suburb of Naples, in the shadow of Mt. Vesuvius. I was fascinated and excited to read, even fictionally, about the country where my family originated. The author's accounts of city structure and life are so wonderful, that for a moment I forgot it was fictional. I was greatly pleased to see that the architecture he describes matches my grandmother's house, down to the shapes of the houses, the cool tiles and the water fountains. Even though we know what happened, it is wonderful to see a new perspective, a more personal view of the events leading up to the disaster.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Pompeii is an impressive historical fiction thriller written by British author Robert Harris. It is set during the Roman Empire in the year 79 A.D. along the Mediterranean coast. The protagonist of the story is Marcus Attilius Primus, the new aquarius (water engineer) for the Agua Augusta, the gigantic aqueduct that supplies fresh water to the many cities surrounding the Bay of Naples and Mount Vesuvius. Drama unfolds as the springs that flow through the Agua begin to fail, affecting the water supply to the region. Attilius is called to assemble an expedition to Pompeii and nearby Mt. Vesuvius to repair the faculty section of the aqueduct. Meanwhile, tremors and rumblings from Vesuvius strike fear of impending disaster in the citizens, who have come to know the wrath of the god Vulcan. Pompeii is a city teeming with crime and corruption, and Attilius encounters a greedy landowner's scheme to divert the public water supply for his own profit. Mass chaos results as the volcano erupts, overwhelming citizens in different stages of evacuation from their homes. Attilius attempts a daring escape through the repaired aqueduct tunnel as Vesuvius unleashes its deadly fury upon Pompeii. Who ultimately survives the catastrophe, and who will perish? The exciting finale will keep readers in suspense until the end. Pompeii is definitely worth reading, because it is exciting as well as educational. Harris uses a combination of fact and fiction that results in a very entertaining novel for fans of both genres. I learned details about ancient Roman culture, and aqueduct engineering that allowed this civilization to prosper. I could also relate to the storyline of corruption and greed vs. good that I see in modern times.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Just recommended that our school library pick up a copy .Yes,the novel is very predictable but who cares we already know the mountain is going to blow. The beauty is that he gets into the culture of the times the food ,mice for lunch bunch,and the physics of a aqueduct and the water chemistry. There are enough villans and saviors to keep one happy . I liked it a lot.
justine28 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
¿Pompeii¿ is a historical thriller set in the Bay of Naples in 79 AD, with action taking place couple of days before the infamous Vesuvius eruption that destroyed the towns of Herculaneum and Pompeii. I found the book to be well written, full of interesting facts about life in Pompeii and Roman Empire almost 2 thousand years ago and a compelling account of what the eruption of Vesuvius must have been like to witness it. It certainly kept me interested. A very improbable happy-ending for the two main characters was a bit too much for me, though, therefore only 4 stars.
sabs83 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A love story takes place during the last days of the city.
cbsi79 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An entertaining read that does well at describing life in the ancient Roman cities in which it is set. However, the plot is predictable and the characters are archetypical. Nothing original here. Still, it is entertaining in the way a disaster movie would be. Good for summer reading which is why I gave it three stars.
LisaMaria_C on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It's obvious to me that Harris did his homework--even before I got to a list of his sources in his Acknowledgments at the end of the novel. He picked an interesting character to carry most of the story, or at least someone in an interesting position to see effects of impending doom. Marcus Attilius is an "aquarius"--an engineer in charge of maintaining the Aqueduct that feeds water into the area of the Bay of Naples--which includes Pompeii. The last man holding his position suddenly disappeared weeks ago and this novel is a mix of hard-boiled mystery and disaster thriller with an element of romance. It was interesting to see the author bring to life Pliny the Elder, a historical figure who was indeed involved in the events surrounding the eruption. Still, I found this account rather clinical with details of engineering and vulcanology more memorable than the people endangered. Maybe it was too short, too terse. Other than Pliny, no one felt fleshed out enough for me to find what is a tragic event moving. Or maybe it was just that Harris populates Pompeii with the kind of characters that imbue it with all the charm of Sodom and Gomorrah so I was half-rooting for Vesuvius. And you know, when I think back to 9/11 (I'm a native New Yorker) there were so many stories of people helping each other, so many stories that broke the heart. I can't help but feel Harris could have done better by Pompeii. So I can't agree with the reviewer on the cover that said the book "kicks ash."
wyn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I can't think that many novels written based on the Roman era and it was interesting to read as presumably research was done to ensure that the way of life was accurate. I enjoyed the plot up until the eruption but felt it lacked a little imagination thereafter.
melydia on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'm not usually much for historical fiction, but I thoroughly enjoyed this one. It is the well-known story of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, but told from a slightly different perspective: the engineer of the aqueduct, dealing with a drought, a pipe blockage, and strange smells of sulfur in the water. In addition to the science (which I found fascinating - Roman technology was amazing), there is plenty of personal and political intrigue to keep the plot rolling along. This fun little book made me want to learn more about Pompeii and the Roman Empire, which says a lot, considering I'd never given them much thought outside the occasional History Channel documentary. Definitely recommended if you're in the mood for some good historical fiction.
susiesharp on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This book was not at all what I was expecting .I expected a story about the people of Pompeii leading up to the eruption but that¿s not what this book was. This was more about the Augustus Aqueducts, which honestly bored me. There was a bit of a mystery surrounding the disappearance of the former ¿Aquarius¿ but didn¿t really care. I guess this book was not my cup of tea.
mrtall on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Robert Harris's Pompeii is an excellent historical novel. Focused tightly on a singular event, and just three days' worth of narration, it's not too long, as many historical novels tend to be. There's of course a character-driven plot running through the volcanic pyrotechnics, and happily it's a pretty good one: an engineer in charge of the aqueduct system in the region surrounding Mt Vesuvius is our hero, and Pompeii's leading citizen, a noveau riche former slave, his foil. Neither character is terribly memorable, but they'll do. The book's show-stopper is Harris's depiction of Pliny, the military commander-cum-natural-scholar, who comes to life in memorable fashion. Recommended.
mikedraper on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In 79 AD a new Aquarius is appointed to the area around Pompeii.Unexplained water loss occurs in the cities around Pompeii and Marcus Attilius Primus, an engineer, feels that his position as Aqaruis is important and his work should be done unscrupuously.As the story begins, a wealthy resident Ampliatus, a former slave, is putting one of his slaves to death. They young man was in charge of his master's prized fish stock and they all died.In an attempt to save this innocent man, Ampliatus's daughter, Corelia, goes to Attilius who arrives and demonstrates that the fish died due to sulphur in the water.Attilius begins to investigate the possilbe fault in the aquaduct while certain officials try to stop him because they fear that Attilius will learn of the manipulation they have done to the water for their own financial gain.There is excellent drama as action begins two days before the volcano erupts. We follow Attilius as he investigates the problem and attempts to provide a solution as his life becomes more and more in danger.This is a highly entertaining story and shows the author's detailed research into the times and life in the city of Pompeii.
blondestranger on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Great historical facts and interesting story. Ending was a bit contrived.
tandu on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Another fine yarn, about the Aquarius of the aqueduct around Pompeii. Has it all: Forbidden love, political intrigue, volcanoes.
ireed110 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Here is one of the many stories of Pompeii, this one told from the point of view of the Aquarian Attilius, whose first inkling that something is wrong is when the one wealthy citizen's fish are killed by the mysterious appearance of sulfur in the water. Good things about this book: We get to meet Plini. We learn something of the marvel of the aqueducts. We learn a bit about volcanoes. Other than that , it's not so good. It's completely predictable - and I don't mean that in the sense that we all know how it ends. There were no surprises here - the good guys and bad guys are all caricatures and behave in exactly the way we expect them to. I didn't care even a little bit who bought it in the end and who didn't -- I was just thankful that the volcano finally blew.
ros.peters on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read this book twice and enjoyed it even more the second time. Although historically correct it read like a page-turner and I like the way the author achieved this. It is a fascinating story by itself and I have to admire the intelligence and sophistication of the Ancient Romans. I have had the opportunity to visit Pompeii and found it a fascinating place and this book certainly helps demystify the event which froze Pompeii in time.
mkschoen on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Marcus Attilius, aquarius overseeing the Aqua Augusta, is sent to Pompeii after the previous aquarius disappears. Investigating a problem with the aqueduct, he uncovers political schenanigans and portentous geological signs. A definite page-turner, even though the reader knows what the final story is going to be. Harris works in a remarkable amount of science and engineering (which I thoroughly enjoyed).
whiteknight50 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was an amazing treatment of a topic that had to be a challenge to write about. I was very impressed by the authors use of the Aqua Augusta aquaduct as a thread to unify the narrative. Some are distracted by the prominence of the aquaduct in this story, but without its stabilizing presence, this story could never have come together. As it was, the novel does a wonderful job of stretching our minds to understand what may have happened in those last days of Pompeii. It provides a glimpse into the hopeful ignorance of the people, their desparate attempts to believe that life would go back to normal. It provided a sense of the life and times of the residents, and brought a human face to the archeology and science of the event. This was a novel that was a fast read and entertaining. I recommend it to anyone who enjoys history as a great read.
belgrade18 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Not a bad light read, but it lacks the humor and irony of other mystery writers whose books are set in Ancient Rome like Lindsay Davis and Ruth Downie.
edwinbcn on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I am gradually realizing that in my appreciation of the novel, I cannot dispense with a good plot. Robert Harris has contrived quite an original new version of the story of Pompeii, producing an extremely readable novel.
dougwood57 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
'Pompeii' is a highly readable historical mystery set in Roman Pompeii in 79 C.E. just before the 'you know what' happens. Robert Harris has an eye for historical detail and can spin a good yarn. The reader of Pompeii learns a bit about Roman aqueducts, the Roman empire and, of course, volcanoes. The protagonist, Marcus Attilius Primus, is the new 'aquarius' sent out from Rome to take over the care and maintenance of the Aqua Augusta, the immense aqueduct that served the Bay of Naples area. Figure out just what did happen to the former aquarius, why the water has dried up, and how did a former slave become the (apparently) richest, most powerful man in Pompeii. Meet Pliny the Elder along the way. A fun read. Highly recommended for lovers of water, volcanoes, and the Roman Empire.
Bookmarque on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I thought that I would devour this book, but it actually took me some weeks to finish. I guess because the characters seemed so thin and I knew that most of them were doomed anyway, I just didn¿t care too much. The underlying stories of corruption, greed and romance just seemed pale in comparison to what was going on under the earth. The catastrophe that would soon engulf them would bring swift end to everything ¿ petty and righteous equally.Also, some of the language and dialogue seemed forced. There were modern day expletives (fuck!) and insults and turns of phrase that seemed out of place. I know that the Romans used similar terms and I think the novel would have held onto some of the time and place the author was trying to create had he used these terms instead of their modern equivalents. Same with some of the crude sexual interludes that were sprinkled here and there. They did nothing to move the story along and I suppose were thrown in to impress upon the reader just how rotten the bad guys were.