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Pompeii [Paperback]

Robert Harris
4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (238 customer reviews)
RRP: 7.99
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Book Description

1 Oct 2009
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.

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Product details

  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Arrow (1 Oct 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0099562332
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099562337
  • ASIN: 0099527944
  • Product Dimensions: 2.6 x 12.9 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (238 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 6,903 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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.

Product Description

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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


"Blazingly exciting... Harris, as Vesuvius explodes, gives full vent to his genius for thrilling narrative... pulse-rate-speeding masterpieces of suffocating suspense and searing action" (Sunday Times)

"Robert Harris's Pompeii is his best yet: as explosive as Etna, as addictive as a thriller, as satisfying as great history - Simon Sebag Montefiore 'Books of the Year'" (Daily Telegraph)

"Breakneck pace, constant jeopardy and subtle twists of plot... a blazing blockbuster" (Daily Mail)

"Harris has done a tremendous job in evoking life in ancient Italy... I am lost in admiration at his energy and skill" (Mail on Sunday)

"The long drawn-out death agony of the two cities is brilliantly done. Explosive stuff indeed" (Daily Telegraph)

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First Sentence
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. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
41 of 43 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Possible Hollywood blockbuster? 12 Jan 2004
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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9 of 9 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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22 of 23 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars That is so Roman 18 May 2004
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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57 of 61 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Explosive Read 14 Sep 2003
Read this book if you wish to be transported back to the week of Vesuvius erupting and to witness it all from the eyes of the engineer responsible for the fresh water supply to the Bay of Naples. This is a very difficult book to put down, and can cause sleep deprivation in the suceptible. Harris captures the culture, customs and corruption of the time, and also shows just how advanced the Romans were as builders and engineers. The descriptions of people, places and events are excellent.He manages to build the tension in the plot in parallel to the pressure in the vulcano.
Probably the best novel I have read this year.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars First-class thriller
The tension never drops, the characters are realistic and the story is historically interesting. I could not put it down before the last page
Published 12 hours ago by Lord Butler
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent read.
I read this book and am now reading the historical work Pompeii by Mary Beard for comparison. I will re-read Harris's book afterwards if I feel I need to. Read more
Published 12 days ago by Roger H
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating and engaging insight into Roman history
The main problem I saw with this novel was that I knew exactly what was going to happen. However, there is much more depth to the story than the eruption and indeed, at times, I... Read more
Published 13 days ago by Froggywoggy
5.0 out of 5 stars Fantastic
It is like someone who was there when it happened and was one of the few who survived and then write it down.
Published 21 days ago by gunilla eriksson
3.0 out of 5 stars Not very Good
I have no idea how this became a "Best Seller". Its not well written, does not flow well which makes it a "Frustrating " read.
Published 24 days ago by Keith C. Pryce
5.0 out of 5 stars fab read
Took a while to get going, but once into it, it's unstoppable. Fantastic, well worth every penny. You won't be able to put it down, addictive, great read! Read more
Published 27 days ago by nat
5.0 out of 5 stars POMPEII a tale.
A brilliant book of fact based fiction.Loved every page and could not put it down.Wish for more books of the like.Well Done Robert Harris.
Published 1 month ago by Bookworm
3.0 out of 5 stars Decent book
Read all the way to the end so not terrible, not exactly edge of the sit kind of stuff, but worth a read.......if there are no other books around....and the internet is down....... Read more
Published 1 month ago by JohnnyG
5.0 out of 5 stars Loved it
Really enjoyed reading this book. Not much of a review but I still give it five stars. Read it and see.
Published 1 month ago by Joseph Philip Rabbitt
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting and well researched.
It brought to life the fear, that was generated by this natural and violent event. The depth of research is impressive.
Published 1 month ago by Ruth Williams
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