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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Engineering mystery, municipal corruption, natural disaster
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),...
Published on 1 Aug 2004 by Sally-Anne

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18 of 19 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Overrated but interesting novel
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...
Published on 20 Oct 2004 by L. Davidson


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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So much is simmering here..., 26 Dec 2004
By 
A. M. Reuben "Reubo" (Brighton, UK) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Pompeii (Paperback)
It's hard to describe this book without using a word one would associate with a volcano...but I'll try.
The word "unputdownable" was created for novels like this one.
Harris aims to bring ancient history to the public and does so brilliantly. The result is an accesible doorway into a fascinating few days in history. It is entertaining and massively educational.
The modern thriller style and characters' conversations seeming rather contemporary may put some readers off as it may all seem a little Hollywood-ish. But I thought this style made the characters easier to empathise with though, and much more human.
I really hope to see this explosive- sorry, excellent- novel made into a film because if its done with as much dexterity as Harris weaves into his book, it could be a fast-paced epic adventure with parallels to our time. Maybe what Harris makes us realise here is that in 2000 years we- people and society- have not really changed that much. It should transfer to celluloid well, and I see it being a movie to rival Gladiator, and maybe even Troy (!) An actor like Jude Law could fit the sandels of the young hero of the novel, Marcus Attilius, a man of integrity in a corrupt world.

Back to the book. I adored the insight into ancient Roman life and I didn't find it at all encyclopaedic. The rich history is weaved skillfully into the exciting and compelling narrative that's full of mystery. The main question which runs through the novel is "what has happened to the missing engineer who Attilius has suceeded?" Of course, one of the most enjoyable elements of the book is the delicious dramatic irony. Some of the one liners are so tantalisingly ironic they just made me smile. Reading about the prosperous future the citizens see for the town is just brilliant, because we can see the double meanings and they can't.
There's plenty to indulge in here. I was foolishly put off by the fact the main character is an engineer and the narrative begins with some technical aqueduct business...it led me to believe this was a book for blokes. Obviously, I was prooved wrong. You wait so long for the fabulous climax and when it finally comes, you are richly rewarded.
Pompeii is really not a book to be ignored. Miss it at your peril.
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2 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Another vehicle for Russell Crowe!, 8 Sep 2005
By 
Andy Millward (Tiptree, Essex, UK) - See all my reviews
(VINE VOICE)   
This review is from: Pompeii (Paperback)
The heart of Harris's success is clear: select a slightly offbeat topic, research in depth, weave a very simple thriller based on strong characters into the backdrop and away you go. Credit to him then for some excellent research into Roman civilisations and the specifics of Pompeii and its lifestyle. In fact, I can yet see Russell Crowe reprising his Gladiator role in the character of Attilius in the Hollywood film version, graphically recreating the decadence and servitude, not forgetting the computer-generated horrors of the erupting Vesuvius. Where, one wonders, will he go next?
Harris's writing style is also up to his previous standards - fast-moving and climactic, though some might say slightly lightweight and lacking in literary style. Pompeii is an undeniably good read. Unquestionably, Harris holds the reader's attention, though at times I yearned for more detail and background than Harris provides. Someday, maybe he will deliver the perfect novel, but until then we can be satisfied with what amounts to a very high class of pulp fiction.
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4 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars could feel the lava!, 16 Oct 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Pompeii (Hardcover)
i felt as if i was in pompeii when i read this book as the volcavno blew up and dumped billions of tons of lava and ash on an unsuspecting city. the build up to the eruption is as good as anything i have read as we follow the water engineer as he tries to work out what is happening to the city's water supply. the trick is we know and he does not the reason. in less clever hands such a plot could be dull but not in mr harris's. i am going out to buy his other books and if i have any money left will buy books on pomepii. next year i will go there to see for myself. usually i am a beach person and hope i can fit some swimming in in between taking in what used to be pompeii.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Can't put it down, 3 Mar 2004
By 
S. R. Hudson (Nottingham, England.) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Pompeii (Hardcover)
This was one of those books that keep you awake at night. I just couldn't put it down and it was so easy to read. Brilliant. This was my first Robert Harris but I shall certainly try some more.
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18 of 29 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars disappointing and dull, 1 Oct 2003
By 
Simon Cross (RUSTINGTON, West Sussex. United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Pompeii (Hardcover)
I was really looking forward to reading this novel, as the setting interests me and I thoroughly enjoyed Harris's Fatherland. However, this book is very disappointing and actually quite dull. Still the suspiciously large print makes it a quick read - was this an attempt by the publisher's to give the book a superficial worthiness?
The thriller elements are predictable, and there was nothing remotely surprising about what happened to any of the characters. Harris has given none of those characters much in the way of depth; the leading character of Marcus Attilius is boring, and I did not care what happened to him. He was far too good, without even a slight chink in his armour.
At times, "the sights, sounds and smells of the Ancient World, each detail conjured with jaw-dropping verisimilitude" mentioned in the review above, are just an excuse for some schoolboy vulgarity, not worthy of Harris's previous writing at all.
However, I concede that I am pretty much alone in my views on this novel. No harm in offering that alternative view though.
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7 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not so much volcanic as glacial..., 8 Dec 2003
This review is from: Pompeii (Hardcover)
Let's be honest from the outset. Robert Harris is best known for producing good high concepts, as was the case with Fatherland. Beyond that he's a pretty pedestrian writer, and Pompeii does nothing to contradict that judgement. It's a short novel, yet, in spite of the pacy telling of the eruption, it feels a lot longer. And that's nothing to do with quality of writing, it is everything to do with just being boring and unimaginative.
Harris has done a commendable amount of research, but mostly from children's books on ancient Rome and primer encyclopaedias on geology. The quotes that head up each chapter harshly yank the reader out of the concept and do nothing to impress us with his aspirations towards erudition. I was amused to see an inflatable beachball in a Roman swimming pool in the opening pages. I was frustrated to note a reference to centuries containing 100 men. And it got worse.
His characters are gossamer thin and wholly uninvolving to the extent that this reader actually found himself willing great harm on the priggish plumber who is Harris's hero. The ending, the very ending, is enough to make you vomit.
So why as much as two stars? One reason only - the fairly impressive (albeit incredible) account of the eruption itself. But even then, it should be a gift to a writer, and even Caroline Lawrence's account of the eruption, written for kids, is more exciting.
Let's hope Harris realised he got his fingers burned on this one and keeps his fiction based in eras he knows more about.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Research is all fine and well but...., 1 Dec 2003
By A Customer
This review is from: Pompeii (Hardcover)
I note that the Sunday Telegraph reviewer thoroughly enjoyed the last 100 pages of this book. Me too, but there's about three hundred and thirty pages in this book and to say that under one third are really good is not the best reccommendation.
The research that Mr Harris has done is incredibly detailed but I'm not sure he needed to prove it by putting it all in the book. I know more about aquaducts and drainage and Ancient Roman engineering than I'd like to and unless I get stuck beside a Classics Professor at a dinner party (heaven forbid!), I will find it hard to boast about my new found knowledge.
I was more entertained by the details of daily life (Who knew that urine was such a good detergent! All that money I've wasted on Daz.) and human relationships.
Is there a screenplay here - Leonardo di Caprio (Marcus) and Kate Winslet (Corelia) in a film where everyone knows what happens in the end? Note to Screenwriter. Corelia (or should I say Cordelia?) needs to be beefed up.
Definitely a book for the boys.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Four Stars, 18 July 2014
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Pompeii (Kindle Edition)
very well written,absorbing.
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74 of 120 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Pompeii, 2 Sep 2003
This review is from: Pompeii (Hardcover)
I had read reviews in the papers about this book . I was interested in reading it because I visited Pompeii three years ago . The excavated remains give a unique glimpse of life before the eruption , but they also conjure up the horror of what engulfed the citizens of the region .
Against that background I started to read the book , and was loathe to put it down . The main character is Attilius the Aquarius ( a water engineer)who is charged with the task of discovering why the water supply to a string of towns on the Naples Peninsula is drying up one by one .
The book explores the construction of roman aqueducts , vulcanology , and throughout one is aware of the menace of Vesuvius , and the catastrophic ending .
Daily life of Pompeian citizens is portrayed along with insights into the class system of the day from high born citizen to slave.
Attilius also acts as a detective and uncovers corruption and intrigue . He falls in love with the daughter of the chief villain and of course in a cliffhanger finale they both survive the cataclysm .
The descriptions of Pompeii bring the ruins to life in a most colourful way , and the book is an essential read for anyone who is considering a trip there .
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10 of 17 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Pompeii, 27 Nov 2008
This review is from: Pompeii (Paperback)
Dull as ditchwater. What a disappointment. This book is as dry as the aqueduct. The chapter splits broken into hours serve to deaden rather than increase the tension. If you are looking for a story to inspire the imagination about pompeii you should look elsewhere. The characters are as dead as the original inhabitants. Harris seems to write either gripping suspenseful novels or dross, sadly this falls into the latter category. Fatherland it ain't.
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Pompeii
Pompeii by Robert Harris (Hardcover - 4 Sep 2003)
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