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Product details

  • Audio CD: 1 pages
  • Publisher: Audiobooks (4 Sept. 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1856868109
  • ISBN-13: 978-1856868105
  • Product Dimensions: 14.3 x 2.4 x 12.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (309 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,011,832 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.

Review

"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) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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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

4.1 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

19 of 20 people found the following review helpful By L. Davidson VINE VOICE on 20 Oct. 2004
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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43 of 46 people found the following review helpful By "blazedj" on 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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57 of 62 people found the following review helpful By docrussell on 14 Sept. 2003
Format: Hardcover
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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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jeremy Walton TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 13 Oct. 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book was strongly recommended to me by a friend (I've previously enjoyed the author's Fatherland and Enigma), and I remembered it in time for a trip we took to you-know-where a couple of weeks ago. My wife read it first, and pronounced it gripping; I'd concur with her assessment. Harris provides a human dimension to the destruction of Pompeii by weaving a story around Marcus Attilius, the engineer in charge of the aqueduct supplying water to the cities of the Bay of Naples. The action is tightly focussed around the eruption of Vesuvius: the story opens two days before that event and closes on its second and final day.

Given this compressed timescale, and what the reader knows is about to happen, the story is an exciting one which fairly whips along. Less effort is spent on characterization: although there's been some attempt to make them plausible and interesting, I don't think this really succeeds - even in the case of the protagonist: although he's clearly intended to be a well-rounded character, I found I didn't have much interest in whether he survived (of course, that could be due to my own failings, rather than his). Somewhat improbably, my lack of concern increased after the eruption had happened, as a meeting between him and two other characters was set up (or perhaps the word should be 'engineered') that I found difficult to believe.
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