Pompeii Audio CD – Abridged, Audiobook
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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) --This text refers to the Paperback edition.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.
Probably the best novel I have read this year.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Excellently researched with compelling characters. Very hard to put down!Published 2 months ago by Sean DS
Having visited Pompeii and read quite a few books on the subject I didn't really enjoy this book very much. Read morePublished 2 months ago by vimto88
Very popular in style certainly. Simply written, with an obvious sense of adventure.
But it is really well done and superbly crafted. Read more
A difficult story to tell; so obviously filled out with inconsequentials. Loved the style. Loved the historical accuracy and bringing Pliny to life. Read morePublished 2 months ago by Amazon Customer
Fascinating information about the technical achievements of the Romans woven into an interesting tail.Published 3 months ago by steven murphy
Thoroughly enjoyed this mixture of thriller/love story and erudition. Extraordinary research by a master storyteller.Published 3 months ago by Anthony R
Choosing this book was prompted by a planned visit to Sorrento with a trip to Pompeii . Thank you Robert Harris !!Published 3 months ago by Ceri Evans