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Pompeii

by Robert Harris

An account of the days leading up to the eruption of Vesuvius & the destruction of Pompeii in AD 79. It is also a portrait of a decadent and doomed community. Like a disaster movie, the account is given human interest as it is told from the point of view of fictional characters whom we get to know & love, hate & hope for. They either burn in the cleansing fires of Vesuvius, or they escape thanks to the quenching waters of the magnificent Aqua Augusta.

The story centres on the engineer Attilius who is in charge of the Aqua Augusta aqueduct. He is a humane and honest man in a world of cruelty and corruption.

We meet real characters from Roman history (Pliny the Elder and Pliny the Younger). We learn about Roman culture. We learn about civilisation and corruption; about slavery and freedom; learning, rationalism and science versus superstition; action and inertia; love and loyalty.

I looked forward to this after reading 'Fatherland' and enjoyed the early part of the novel. I was a bit disappointed with the last few chapters, the description of the eruption and the actions of the protagonists as death rained down on the city. Atillius' love interest, Corelia, seemed a little thinly drawn - a bit of a wet t-shirt in some ways though a very strong and moral woman in others - perhaps I'm just missing the point.

Anyway, a gripping read.

Suggested by Jeronimo, Bristol

Tagged with: gripping

 

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