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on 3 December 2016
Why do we have to find out all the interesting stuff after we leave education? Thankfully Mary Beard and others fill the knowledge gap in the style and language of understanding rather than entertainment. I like the explained thought processes to illustrate why an interpretation is arrived at, and the context into which it can be placed. A good writer makes for a good read and Mary Beard does this for Pompeii.
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VINE VOICEon 2 February 2018
A brilliant history of the town of Pompeii made up of what we know about daily life. Beard excels in explaining what we know, what we can induce and what we need to guess about the ancient Pompeians based on the nature of the information the archaeologists uncovered and what supporting sources were needed. It's interesting, for example, that at least some of the bodies discovered in the city were probably later tomb raiders who dug tunnels into the site rather than people who died in the original destruction of the town, so finding a body in a kitchen with heavy digging tools doesn't automatically tell you about Roman food preparation techniques. None of this is dry information though, it's a highly readable, amusing and entertaining book covering the full range of Pompeian life, from high art to low pleasures.

Highly recommended, especially if you've visited, or are about to visit, Pompeii itself.
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on 6 January 2016
I have to put it out there and say that I've just read a book about Rome by Mary Beard, loved it, and therefore rushed straight to another of her works. I've been to Pompeii, a good while ago, so figured it would be good to read about things again. This really is a great book. Written in a very accessible way and yet based on evidence rather than, 'Well, it was probably like this'. Discussion was about the way that the Pompeians lived and died. I had always thought that Pompeii was a classic example of Roman life. In actuality, Pompeii had been affected by a significant earthquake a number of years prior to its complete destruction by Vesuvius so it may have been very poorly populated and not in the best of shape. The evidence is though still there such that Ms Beard helps us understand the way people lived, died, worked and much more. A wonderful informative, accessible, interesting book. Highly recommended.
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on 6 August 2016
I have the talking book and paperback of Pompeii and I thoroughly enjoy them Professor Beard makes the Romans seen real and living just round the corner. The chapters are great and as I was trying to find out what a Roan city was like and all its constituent parts this fitted the bill.The writing is excellent and she has the ability to excite you about the subject . This is a great book as is SPQR BUT Pompeii makes me feel at home and as I am a writer my next book needed the details of Roman living which Professsor Beard supplied . Brilliant
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on 4 August 2014
Beard opens by challenging the notion that Pompeii was simply a normal city simply 'frozen in time'. Pompeii itself had a long history and was recovering from an earthquake when the eruption in 79 occurred. Most of the city was evacuated during the catastrophe, its contents largely removed by the fleeing inhabitants. Some came back later to retrieve their remaining possessions and a fair bit was robbed subsequent looters. Moreover the early excavations were crude and what was uncovered has since deteriorated. Constructing the history of the town seems therefore like a jigsaw with most of the pieces missing; there is much speculation and controversy over even some of the most basic 'facts'.

Beard therefore manages to give an impression of the historiography of the city, drawing on changing ideas from archaeology and forensics, and circumstantial evidence from the (also fragmentary) contemporary literature. Anyone with an interest in how history works as a discipline will enjoy this 'CSI Pompeii ' approach as Beard builds up the picture of what we know or can reasonably surmise of various aspects of Roman life.

I read this in preparation for a trip to Pompeii this summer and it hugely enhanced my enjoyment of the visit. It is dense but very readable though I felt the detail of the competing claims sometimes interfered with the broader story, leaving me with as many questions as answers. But then that is probably the sign of a good history book.
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on 31 July 2013
I brought this as we were going on holiday to Italy and going to visit Pompeii.

I started to read this at home but then my wife got hold of it after I was one chapter in. She studied Classics at University and has written about the site before. She loved this book, learnt a lot and could not put it down.

Two days before we travelled I got the book back, but then my 17 year old got hold of it (I was at chapter 3). He devoured it as we travelled and finished it on the beach in Sorrento. Great I thought I would quickly finish my novel and get it before we went to the site in four days time.

Within an hour my 14 year old son had picked it up, and would not put it down.

I finally got it back the day we were going on our trip to Pompeii, all the way round they kept saying "Mary said this about it" or "Oh that's the one Mary was on about".

So I finally finished this fantastic book after the visit.

I studied History and Archaeology at university but never had much interest in Rome. But Mary Beard just brings the whole subject to life in a way that so few writers can. She does not pretend to know the answers but presents the evidence, offers her opinion and leaves it to you to decide. Academic and popular, appealing to 14 year old rugby fanatics and 40 something would be archaeologists. How does she do it?
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on 16 August 2013
The TV Series of this book was great and I loved Mary Beard's previous 'Meet the Romans,' and I can honestly say that she reads exactly like she sounds. There are times when she's trying to describe or explain things that you think, oh no this is starting to sound a little textbook but she normally turns it around by putting a funny story or joke in. The illustrations/photos are great because they are placed throughout the text rather than at the end, although it does make for clunky reading on a kindle sometimes.
Overall I really felt like I could imagine Pompeii, and even though I've been I had forgotten half the places Mary was talking about but she did a great job of describing the streets in their own time. We are reminded of the filth, dirt and general horribleness that a Roman town can be but I thought it was interesting that the author tried to tell us about the ordinary Romans as well as the rich ones with their fancy, ocean view villas.
Mary Beard's realistic, down to earth tone made this book, she writes off half the tourist guide stories and refutes a lot of the claims archaeologist's try to make. There are lots of buildings around Pompeii whose uses are still unknown and it's been made clear that on so little evidence Mary doesn't believe what a lot of people have decided they were for. Pompeii was really lit up from an ancient perspective, Beard rips away our modern view and makes her reader look at the disaster of what happened to Pompeii for the horrific, terrifying event it was rather than the spectacle modern cinema and tv have made it into.
Great book for someone who likes a bit of historical, interesting reading but nothing to heavy or dry.
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on 8 July 2016
I loved the TV series Mary Beard did, and was inspired to detour on long weekend in Naples to Pompeii, after which time I felt compelled to buy Mary's book and learn more. One thing I love about Ms Beard, and her writing in particular, SPQR that I bought is also the same in this regard, is her unbelievably clever way with words and sense of humour whilst doing so. I just love that she injects chuckle and "laugh out loud" descriptions and stories into her narrative. It is very well researched, beautifully written, brings the subject matter to life in amazing fashion, I just love it.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 6 April 2016
This is a fascinating account of the lives of the people of Pompeii, examined through the clues left after the Vesuvius eruption in 73CE. Mary Beard has given a fascinating account, confidently asserting what is known, but acknowledging openly where there is doubt, of what life was like for all kinds of people in Pompeii.

This covers eating and drinking, fun of all kinds, homes, businesses, religion, street life and government, and all in a very readable yet highly informative style.

I enjoyed this so much I have just ordered SPQR by the same author
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on 8 February 2016
I'm no scholar, but I'm really enjoying this book. Mary Beard writes very entertainingly & clearly. It's full of interesting facts - and lots of pictures and illustrations. Brings the ordinary people of Pompeii back to life. Thanks Mary!
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