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Slightly disappointing overall...
on 13 February 2011
As someone who expected great things here, I find myself a little disappointed overall(just as with her TV programme on this). Obviously Mary Beard is well researched, but even so I found her tendency to set up paper tigers that she then knocked down was a little irritating. Not many people would now take the detail of C19th/early C20th archaeology too seriously, but she takes some delight in being the "honest neutral observer" and correcting views and interpretations that are rather obviously outdated. I imagine she likes being seen as the controversial myth-busting classicist - she said of 9/11 that America "had it coming", or words to that effect - and she will enjoy the general reactions to this book. But then she chooses not to use some of the recent innovative Italian archaeologists work on Pompeii, papers that would have helped her book.
Having said that, she does have some fresh insights and some fascinating anecdotes, and it is a book worth reading. She is particularly good on pictures and paintings alone. But just a little too self-centered and even self-satisfied for me: "Pompeii-The Living City" by Butterworth and Lawrence was a more enjoyable read, and the authors do not keep getting in the way - it is not by chance that her photo is on the front cover!