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Richmond Book Club Message Board › POMPEII


user 2830593
Group Organizer
Midlothian, VA
Post #: 177
I really like this book, although not the one I voted for as I had already read it! Historical fiction is my favorite genre and after reading this book I went on to read Imperium by Harris which is the story of Cicero (well part of it, waiting for a sequel) told from his servant/PA 's point of view. Excellent book I think slightly better than Pompeii.

What did you all think of this one?

The aqueduct was an amazing feat, fascinating to learn about and the author clearly knew his stuff. Interesting how all the wealthy romans had their fish farms and baths while the poor were going thirsty. I also enjoyed the story and characters in the book. Did anyone else notice the comments made that could easily refer to today's issues. For example the war and the enviroment. Here's a quote from Pliny that I think illustrates an interesting view on global warming:

Men mistook measurement for understanding. And they always put themselves at the centre of everything. That was their greatest conceit. The earth is becoming warmer - it must be our fault! The mountain is destroying us - we have not propitiated the gods! It rains too much, it rains too little - a comfort to think that these things are somehow connected to our behavior, that if only we lived a little better, a little more frugally, our virtue would be rewarded. But here was Nature, sweeping toward him - unknowable, all conquering, indifferent - and he saw in Her fires the futility of human pretensions.

Apparently the author wanted to write a book about America but thought writing about Pompeii and the romans would be a good parallel. Here's part of an interview with the authour that explains it:

Robert Harris says it was a news report in the Telegraph three years ago which prompted the idea for Pompeii. Challenging the usual version which supposes that everyone in Pompeii died instantly when Vesuvius exploded, new findings proved that the story was much more complex and extended. The new scenario offered material for Harris, who until this point had been hoping to write a novel set in modern day America.

"Because it didn't all end instantly, there were choices to be made - people could stay in the city, or leave and then come back because they thought the worst was over."

Pompeii's water system was part of an amazing engineering project. It also offered Harris a way into his story since he knew that the water had failed a few days before the volcano went up - the land around Vesuvius was swelling, rupturing the pipe.
"So I saw the way I might be able to tell the story - that this man is sent from Rome to repair it."

Harris is also alert to a broader political theme - Roman water supplies were a symbol of empire. He found that the workings of ancient Rome kept bringing him back to the modern day parallel superpower - America.

"The Romans learned how to move water long distances. It meant they could build cities anywhere. In the first century AD the citizens of Rome had more water per head than the citizens of New York do today. I had the idea of a dominant world power in the back of my mind, and of how long it might last, and of hubris, because in the end all empires and civilisations pass away. And it suddenly struck me that Rome might be the best way to write about America - because they thought they were the last word, the Romans, and that nothing would ever come along that would be better."

There were other resonances: the incredible luxury that existed on the Bay of Naples in the Roman era, "very like Palm Beach or Malibu" or the dynamic society in which, as in America, there was the idea that people could rise up by their own efforts. The character of Ampliatus - the freed slave who has made his money from shady property deals - displays his wealth with all the ostentation of the nouveaux riche.

"We tend to forget this, but a lot of the very richest people in the Roman Empire were freed slaves. Pompeii was a sort of boom town, there was a lot of new money and reconstruction."

Ampliatus gave me the opportunity to write about the drive and dynamic that kept Roman society alive. The Romans kept a regular injection of new blood but not to the extent that the society could destabilise. He also has to live through his son because he can't vote, much in the way that an immigrant in the US can't vote but his child can."

About the Author

According to Wikipedia Roman Polanski is going to direct the movie of the book.
A former member
Post #: 15
I didn't vote for this book either, but I really enjoyed it. (Yes, I actually finished the book for a change). SO glad it's going to be a movie...I kept seeing the action on the screen as I was reading! :)
A former member
Post #: 361
Oh my gosh! I dont think I have made it past the first 10 pages yet. I like it so far just need to get past the rock.
A former member
Post #: 25
yes, the america/ roman empire parallel is a valid one. it's classic almost to the point of being cliche, but is so for a reason. the fact that we ignore the danger in this parallel time and again is why so many writers/ artists/ filmakers continue to explore and revisit it.

i just bought what is apparently the last copy of pompeii in richmond and surrounding areas, and i can't wait to get started!

thanks for all the background info chelsea! my goodness, there's a wiki for everything. wikipedia is the new google, i guess. i actually didn't even know that roman polanski was still alive.
A former member
Post #: 12
I am twenty pages from the end and I can't wait for my book to explode.
user 2830593
Group Organizer
Midlothian, VA
Post #: 186
I found it a little dry but not to the point I wished it would spontaneously combust. Can't wait to find out what you disliked about it!
A former member
Post #: 32
I was hoping for more , I dont know history of what happened before, during and after. I did not care for the little side stories about lover/family quarrels.
user 2830593
Group Organizer
Midlothian, VA
Post #: 188
We had a great meetup last night. Thanks for coming everyone again sorry about the last minute venue change, I hope no one went to Gutenburg.

I would say generally everyone was a bit disappointed with this book. Some comments were that his style of writing was not consistent, the plot was a bit weak and/or melodramatic and the characters were poorly developed.

Some found it hard to read on after the description of what they ate, I'm sure an accurate description of a gourmet meal in those days but yuck!

Those of you who did not make it last night, what did you think?
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