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VINE VOICEHALL OF FAMETOP 50 REVIEWERon 21 January 2016
First published in 1834 this book like seemingly all of Edward Bulwer-Lytton’s works has become relatively neglected, although if you do decide to read this you will soon realise that it is a good book, and is still quite thrilling. As the title suggests this is set in the period leading up to the destruction of Pompeii.

We meet here a range of characters, from slaves and gladiators, through to the rich and free, as well as religious leaders, and as we see Christianity is just starting to show its head in the city. For the people of Pompeii though they are somewhat on a cusp as gluttony and hedonism start to give way to a more ordered society. The main plot of this book is love, with revenge and jealousy playing a large part. As for poor Nydia the blind slave she finds herself in love but never to be loved for more than a friend. Glaucus is an Athenian much admired due to his money and looks, but he has his heart set on Ione. Unbeknownst to Glaucus though he has a rival, the nasty and manipulative Egyptian, Arbaces, who is the guardian of Ione and her brother, Apaecides.

We follow what happens as Arbaces tries his best to prevent any union between Glaucus and Ione. Whilst we read of this though we are taken in some ways on a visit to Pompeii itself and meet those who live there. We also see how the Christians are starting to be noticed and how the Cult of Isis uses underhand tactics to impress its followers. Although things have changed over the proceeding centuries we do get a feel for a Roman city, in the hustle and bustle of everyday life, and the problems that some of its citizens face, as well as how people are tricked and conned due to superstition and belief systems, in fact, just like a modern city. With a visit to the arena where we read of the gladiators fighting, and people hoping to see wild animals tear people to shreds there is quite some excitement here.

What will happen though when Mount Vesuvius erupts and brings devastation upon the city? And will any of our characters survive?

In all a good read that should more than hold most people’s attention and will perhaps start getting the books by Edward Bulwer-Lytton being read again.
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on 22 January 2016
Very glad to have tracked a copy down for my daughter. This famous book is now out of print.
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HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERon 31 December 2005
Edward George Bulwer-Lytton is best known for coming up with the immortal phrase that Snoopy is always typing: "It was a dark and stormy night." Unfortunately, he's never that concise in "Last Days of Pompeii," a bloated and melodramatic historical novel that takes a volcanic eruption and makes it.... boring.

It focuses on the final days of the ancient Roman city of Pompeii, which was buried in a volcanic eruption in 79 A.D. In particular, it focuses on a virtuous young Roman man, Glaucus, who is stuck in a love quadrangle with a beautiful, equally virtuous young lady, a blind slave girl, and a sinister Egyptian who beguiles the lovley young lady.

In the background is a turmoil of religious and social problems, with a deadly volcano smoldering behind it all. Then, a murder is committed -- and Glaucus is arrested for the crime, and sentenced to be sent into the arena. When Vesuvius blows, will any of them survive?

"The Last Days of Pompeii" is one of those novels that had immense promise. Unfortunately, Bulwer-Lytton turns it into a Roman soap opera. Rather than focusing on the more interesting aspects of Pompeii, Bulwer-Lytton decided to focus on a contrived web of very boring people.

It doesn't help that "Last Days of Pompeii" is also written in a chokingly dense style, very ornate and full of bad poetry. The dialogue is even worse, with lines like, "'With all his conceit and extravagance he is not so rich, I fancy, as he affects to be, and perhaps loves to save his amphorae better than his wit." Okay, whatever. The story might be more palatable, had Bulwer-Lytton not tried too hard -- many Victorian authors managed to communicate their stories without smothering the readers in faux-ancient prose.

Bulwer-Lytton also seems to have been showing off his knowledge of Roman architecture and clothing, since the descriptions of the atrium and triclinium are more complex than any character. He regularly interrupted the narrative just to lecture readers on historical trivia, on everything from medieval necromancy to Italian herbs -- not just annoying, but often irrelevant to the story at hand.

Apparently in the interest of keeping the novel "human," Bulwer-Lytton introduced some romantic tension. Unfortunately, his characters don't act like real people -- really, who would fuss about their love lives while escaping from an erupting volcano that has killed hundreds and destroyed two cities? It's hard to imagine anyone so oblivious and self-absorbed, but the annoying blind slave Nydia apparently can't think of anything else.

Glaucus is a paragon of virtue, despite what Romans of the time were like; he even converts to Christianity for no apparent reason, in keeping with the attempt to make him fit the Victorian ideal. On the flipside, Arbaces is a rather cartoonish -- even slightly racist -- villain, who is just there to make trouble because he wants to.

"The Last Days of Pompeii" is an intriguing idea for a novel, but a flop as Edward Bulwer-Lytton actually wrote it. Too bad the volcano didn't blow a lot sooner.
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HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERon 16 January 2006
Edward George Bulwer-Lytton is best known for coming up with the immortal phrase that Snoopy is always typing: "It was a dark and stormy night." Unfortunately, he's never that concise in "Last Days of Pompeii," a bloated and melodramatic historical novel that takes a volcanic eruption and makes it.... boring.

It focuses on the final days of the ancient Roman city of Pompeii, which was buried in a volcanic eruption in 79 A.D. In particular, it focuses on a virtuous young Roman man, Glaucus, who is stuck in a love quadrangle with a beautiful, equally virtuous young lady, a blind slave girl, and a sinister Egyptian who beguiles the lovley young lady.

In the background is a turmoil of religious and social problems, with a deadly volcano smoldering behind it all. Then, a murder is committed -- and Glaucus is arrested for the crime, and sentenced to be sent into the arena. When Vesuvius blows, will any of them survive?

"The Last Days of Pompeii" is one of those novels that had immense promise. Unfortunately, Bulwer-Lytton turns it into a Roman soap opera. Rather than focusing on the more interesting aspects of Pompeii, Bulwer-Lytton decided to focus on a contrived web of very boring people.

It doesn't help that "Last Days of Pompeii" is also written in a chokingly dense style, very ornate and full of bad poetry. The dialogue is even worse, with lines like, "'With all his conceit and extravagance he is not so rich, I fancy, as he affects to be, and perhaps loves to save his amphorae better than his wit." Okay, whatever. The story might be more palatable, had Bulwer-Lytton not tried too hard -- many Victorian authors managed to communicate their stories without smothering the readers in faux-ancient prose.

Bulwer-Lytton also seems to have been showing off his knowledge of Roman architecture and clothing, since the descriptions of the atrium and triclinium are more complex than any character. He regularly interrupted the narrative just to lecture readers on historical trivia, on everything from medieval necromancy to Italian herbs -- not just annoying, but often irrelevant to the story at hand.

Apparently in the interest of keeping the novel "human," Bulwer-Lytton introduced some romantic tension. Unfortunately, his characters don't act like real people -- really, who would fuss about their love lives while escaping from an erupting volcano that has killed hundreds and destroyed two cities? It's hard to imagine anyone so oblivious and self-absorbed, but the annoying blind slave Nydia apparently can't think of anything else.

Glaucus is a paragon of virtue, despite what Romans of the time were like; he even converts to Christianity for no apparent reason, in keeping with the attempt to make him fit the Victorian ideal. On the flipside, Arbaces is a rather cartoonish -- even slightly racist -- villain, who is just there to make trouble because he wants to.

"The Last Days of Pompeii" is an intriguing idea for a novel, but a flop as Edward Bulwer-Lytton actually wrote it. Too bad the volcano didn't blow a lot sooner.
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on 15 July 2016
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