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Pompeii [Kindle Edition]

Robert Harris
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (303 customer reviews)

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Book Description

A number one bestselling Roman thriller from the award-winning master of the literary and historical thriller genre: Robert Harris. A thrilling depiction of one of the most famous natural disasters in human history: the explosion of Mount Vesuvius.



A sweltering week in late August. Where better to enjoy the last days of summer than on the beautiful Bay of Naples? But even as Rome's richest citizens relax in their villas around Pompeii and Herculaneum, there are ominous warnings that something is going wrong. Wells and springs are failing, a man has disappeared, and now the greatest aqueduct in the world - the mighty Aqua Augusta - has suddenly ceased to flow. Through the eyes of four characters - a young engineer, an adolescent girl, a corrupt millionaire and an elderly scientist - Robert Harris brilliantly recreates a luxurious world on the brink of destruction.



Product Description

Amazon.co.uk Review

Certain thriller writers burst upon the scene with considerable impact: Forsyth with The Day of the Jackal, Cruz Smith with Gorky Park and Robert Harris with the masterly Fatherland. Interestingly, of these three authors, by far the most consistent has been Harris, and his new novel, Pompeii is in some ways his most audacious offering yet, a brilliantly orchestrated thriller-cum-historical recreation that plays outrageous tricks with the reader's expectations.

As in the equally adroit Enigma, Harris takes a familiar historical event (there, the celebrated code-breakers at Bletchley Park, here the volcanic obliteration of an Italian city in AD79) and seamlessly weaves a characteristically labyrinthine plot in and around the existing facts. But that's not all he does here: few novelists who (unlike Harris) make a speciality of ancient history for their setting pull off the sense of period quite as impressively as the author does here. As the famous catastrophe approaches, we are pleasurably immersed in the sights, sounds and smells of the Ancient World, each detail conjured with jaw-dropping verisimilitude.

Harris's protagonist is the engineer Marcus Attilius, placed in charge of the massive aqueduct that services the teeming masses living in and around the Bay of Naples. Despite the pride he takes in his job, Marcus has pressing concerns: his predecessor in the job has mysteriously vanished, and another task is handed to Marcus by the scholar Pliny: he is to undertake crucial repairs to the aqueduct near Pompeii, the city in the shadow of the restless Mount Vesuvius. And as Marcus faces several problems--all life threatening--an event approaches that will make all his concerns seem petty.

Other writers have placed narratives in the shadow of this most famous of volcanic cataclysms, but Harris triumphantly ensures that his characters' individual dramas are not dwarfed by implacable nature; Marcus is a vividly drawn hero: complex, conflicted and a canny synthesis of modern and ancient mindsets. Some may wish that Harris might return to something closer to our time in his next novel, but few who take this trip into a dangerous past will be able to resist Harris's spellbinding historical saga. --Barry Forshaw

Amazon Review

Certain thriller writers burst upon the scene with considerable impact: Forsyth with The Day of the Jackal, Cruz Smith with Gorky Park and Robert Harris with the masterly Fatherland. Interestingly, of these three authors, by far the most consistent has been Harris, and his new novel, Pompeii is in some ways his most audacious offering yet, a brilliantly orchestrated thriller-cum-historical recreation that plays outrageous tricks with the reader's expectations.

As in the equally adroit Enigma, Harris takes a familiar historical event (there, the celebrated code-breakers at Bletchley Park, here the volcanic obliteration of an Italian city in AD79) and seamlessly weaves a characteristically labyrinthine plot in and around the existing facts. But that's not all he does here: few novelists who (unlike Harris) make a speciality of ancient history for their setting pull off the sense of period quite as impressively as the author does here. As the famous catastrophe approaches, we are pleasurably immersed in the sights, sounds and smells of the Ancient World, each detail conjured with jaw-dropping verisimilitude.

Harris's protagonist is the engineer Marcus Attilius, placed in charge of the massive aqueduct that services the teeming masses living in and around the Bay of Naples. Despite the pride he takes in his job, Marcus has pressing concerns: his predecessor in the job has mysteriously vanished, and another task is handed to Marcus by the scholar Pliny: he is to undertake crucial repairs to the aqueduct near Pompeii, the city in the shadow of the restless Mount Vesuvius. And as Marcus faces several problems--all life threatening--an event approaches that will make all his concerns seem petty.

Other writers have placed narratives in the shadow of this most famous of volcanic cataclysms, but Harris triumphantly ensures that his characters' individual dramas are not dwarfed by implacable nature; Marcus is a vividly drawn hero: complex, conflicted and a canny synthesis of modern and ancient mindsets. Some may wish that Harris might return to something closer to our time in his next novel, but few who take this trip into a dangerous past will be able to resist Harris's spellbinding historical saga. --Barry Forshaw


Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 792 KB
  • Print Length: 370 pages
  • Publisher: Cornerstone Digital (14 Sept. 2010)
  • Sold by: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B0042JSSVI
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Word Wise: Not Enabled
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (303 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #7,065 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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More About the Author

Robert Harris is the author Fatherland, Enigma, Archangel, Pompeii, Imperium and The Ghost - all of which were worldwide bestsellers. His work has been translated into thirty-three languages. He was born in Nottingham in 1957 and is a graduate of Cambridge University. He worked as a reporter on the BBC's Newsnight and Panorama programmes, before becoming Political Editor of the Observer in 1987, and then a columnist on the Sunday Times and the Daily Telegraph. In 2003 he was named Columnist of the Year in the British Press Awards. He lives near Hungerford in Berkshire with his wife and their four children.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Format:Audio CD
An Aquarius (aqueduct engineer) mysteriously goes missing so a new one has to be appointed. The water stops flowing down the Aqua Augusta. The new Aquarius must find the source of the problem quickly because there's a drought and several towns along the bay of Naples are entirely dependent on the aqueduct for their water. He persuades the Admiral, Pliney (the elder), whose fleet is docked at Misenum, to provide him with a swift craft to take him to Pompeii where he can follow the aqueduct back from its source until he finds the damaged or blocked section. He should be able to spot it easily enough but speed is of the essence. Unfortunately, he has to contend with his hostile, resentful and unco-operative foreman who has reason to fear what the Aquarius might discover, other than the problem in the sluiceway. At the town of Pompeii he finds corruption is rife and when he refuses to be bought, he becomes the target of murderous intent. The most wicked player of the lot has a good and strong willed daughter however and she decides to risk all to help the engineer. Meanwhile, underfoot and all around are signs that none of this really matters. If they could only recognise the signs, they would know that the volcanic mountain, Vesuvius, is waking up and soon nothing else will matter. There have been plenty of indicators besides the fact that the water has ceased to flow: the dead fish, the bitter taste of the water, the stink of sulphur, the spring flowing backwards, the vibration Pliney noticed in his glass of wine, the earth tremors. These people don't seem to understand that the mountain is a volcano - not until it's too late ... Read more ›
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43 of 45 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Possible Hollywood blockbuster? 12 Jan. 2004
Format:Hardcover
This book, although not complicated or amazingly original plotwise, is utterly enthralling and i challenge anyone to be able to put it down for too long.
You cant help but like Marcus Attilius or get involved with his struggle to prove himself to the might of the Roman Empire as the new Aquarius, overseer of the aqueduct providing Campania with its much needed water supply.
Through his obvious enthusiasm and research into the topic Harris gets across with ease the sense of self importance and indestructibility that the Romans felt at this period in their history, in the decades before the fall of the empire.
Some of the characters are fictional but others such as Pliny the Elder (author of 37 volumes entitled Natural History) were actually in the city at the time of its destruction and some of the events and dialogue described in the book are well documented by his nephew (also featured) who survived to tell the tale.
Harris fuses fact and fiction into a tale that remorselessly picks up pace from the idyllic surroundings of Pompeii at the height of Roman civilisation to the humbling and ruin of the city by one of natures greatest forces. I forsee a Hollywood blockbuster coming before long.
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24 of 25 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars That is so Roman 18 May 2004
Format:Hardcover
I haven't read any other books by Robert Harris but have every intention of doing so after reading this book.
There were many aspects of this book which I adored to see because they fit in perfectly with how I envisaged Roman culture to be and I should, hopefully, have a good impression of this being a student of Ancient History.
First - The corruption of various public figures in Pompeii is very accurate and was a huge problem during the Imperial age of Rome.
Second - The death of Pliny, this was lifted straight from the works of Pliny the Younger and so is as accurate a description of the death of Pliny as you will get. The tension and fear were so well described that there were moments when my breath was short because of all the ash.
Third - The instance of a slave being thrown to some eels is also a well known anecdote from the period, some masters were so cruel to their slaves that they would do this. Likewise some were very beneficient and even left large sums of money and freedom to their slaves in their wills.
Fourth - the sense of duty the hero felt to get the aquaduct working again. This idea of working for the public good is one that is not highlighted much when looking at the Romans but it is something that their Empire was pretty much founded on and so was a integral part of their culture. Of course no everyone was like this, probably a minority but it is by no means far fetched.
There was of course a feeling of inevitability to this story but it is a wonderfully written book and as historically accurate as historical fiction gets. I think it gives a very good impression of what life was like at the time, of the dangers and of the perks. I for one would not be dissapointed if Robert Harris explored more of the period.
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19 of 20 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Overrated but interesting novel 20 Oct. 2004
By L. Davidson VINE VOICE
Format:Paperback
I could have written a one sentence review of "Pompeii" such as "Nothing much happens and then a volcano goes off", but that would be cruel and ignore the many positive and absorbing aspects of this novel.Nearly everyone has heard the story of the destruction of Pompeii by Vesuvius from their schooldays or, more likely, from Frankie Howard films and how the decadent ,corrupt Roman town was wiped out by a volcanic eruption that dwarfed the Hiroshima explosion.
Harris conveys the Shock and Awe of the inhabitants of the Bay of Naples very well in this well researched piece of "faction" as Pompeii and its environs are bombarded by ash,rock and flame in the finale (and yes, there is no surprise twist in the tale -the volcano does go off) and this is one of the plus points of "Pompeii". But what I enjoyed most about the book was the description of and the detail surrounding the Roman aqueducts and in particular the failure of the Aqua Augusta which served the Bay of Naples area and the repair of which constitutes the main storyline of "Pompeii". Ah, the storyline. This is the main weakness of the novel in that it barely exists for three-quarters of it. The main character , the stoic Attilius, is the head aquarius who identifies,investigates and sorts out a water supply problem and this is essentially all that happens plot wise. Well apart from a rather unconvincing love story and a minor civic corruption sub-plot. "Pompeii" is ,in the main,an imaginative re-creation of life 1900 years ago; a detailed ,convincing description of Roman society in its imperial heyday. Harris's research is impressive and fact and fiction are interwoven expertly. But nothing much happens and you already know the ending before you even start the book. I fail to see why so many critics have raved about this book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Recommended read especially if you are visiting the ruins
Enjoyable historical novel well written strong characters throughout based on events leading up to the demise of Pompeii. Read more
Published 7 days ago by Miss Alice G Cooper
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Read
I have read many of Harris's previous novels and this is up there with the best of them. Entertaining and educational. Great read.
Published 10 days ago by Keviln
5.0 out of 5 stars A really good story that gives a great idea of what life ...
A really good story that gives a great idea of what life was like around the time of the eruption. Perfect for me as I've just booked a holiday to visit Pompeii for the first time.
Published 11 days ago by Peter Wintle
5.0 out of 5 stars Good All Round!
A good read at a good price. The item arrived in good time and was in excellent condition. Recommended.
Published 18 days ago by Bugposse
5.0 out of 5 stars Gripping and historically informative
I got this copy for a friend but as I'd already read it, feel qualified to review it. Typical Harris thriller, carefully researched history, clever choice of a protagonist to... Read more
Published 29 days ago by Eborbibliophile
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
book as described
Published 1 month ago by BIGDOC
5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars
great little read
Published 1 month ago by Dave
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant.
To tell the story of Pompeii from the perspective of the man mending the Aqua Augusta is ingenious. No one can know how many people from Pompeii survived the great eruption of... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Janie S
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Historical excitement
Fascinating story!
Published 1 month ago by SamPepes
4.0 out of 5 stars Good if a bit dry
My wife read this book some years ago and enjoyed it, but I wasn't tempted partly because of the (dubious) tenet that, "historical fiction is either bad history or bad... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Cheshire Tiger
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