Book Review: Pompeii by Robert Harris

Harris is best known for modern thrillers, amongst them the acclaimed Fatherland so Pompeii is a bit of a departure from his comfort zone.

I would guess that the story needs no introduction. It is a scorching summer evening in Pompeii and a natural disaster that will capture the imagination until the present day is just around the corner. The volcano Vesuvius will bury the town and several others under mountains of ash.

But before that happens, Harris wants to tell us a tale of four of Pompeii’s occupants: a young engineer, a teenage girl, a corrupt equite and and elderly philosopher/scientist all have observations about the town around them, Roman life and the event. Part of our investment in the story is the expectation that at least one of our protagonists ought to survive.

At a shade under 400 words, this is a nice length to introduce us to the town, animate it and then bring it crashing down. Harris has made the transition to historical fiction well and with a dose of the thriller that is his bread and butter we have an intriguing tale. It is also unusual in the historical fiction genre in being a stand alone novel. That doesn’t happen very often these days.

An excellent introduction to the genre and all the more tragic for being based on a real event.

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2 thoughts on “Book Review: Pompeii by Robert Harris

  1. Colin Prout

    I love this book as he comes at the story from a very unusual angle. The story is told through the eyes of a water engineer and in this way he can set up scenes that show the incredible engineering feats performed by the Romans. Also, as water was a vital natural resource, the books deals with the politics of the control of such resources. We also have, for good measure, a cameo from Pliny. Excellent stuff. Colin Prout

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