After my recent read of The Ghost by Robert Harris, I was interested to see how he approached his historical themed novels which I have also been highly recommended. Pompeii certainly didn’t disappoint.
Following its key protagonist, Marcus Attilius, an engineer for the aqueduct of the Aqua Augusta, Pompeii delves into a gripping tale spanning the few days before this major historical event. With the inevitability of the disastrous eruption, Harris faced the evident challenge of creating a tale of which all would know its end. In this aspect, Harris did a remarkable job of imagining a wider fictional narrative, offering a refreshing ground perspective on something emphatically distanced by history. Exacting his distinct knowledge on the period, Harris perfectly merges fiction with fact.
Indeed, alongside the numerous signs portenting disaster, Harris has built a fictional narrative pitting Roman honour against corruption and greed. With an array of characters, both historical and imaginary, Pompeii lends an authentic reflection on Roman life. With the ever looming power of nature waiting to make enemies of them all, the decisions these characters make will unwittingly leave their lives hanging in the balance.
In addition to the compelling tale, another aspect which I found enjoyable in this novel was in the opening of each chapter, which begins with a brief passage from various works on the study of volcanoes. Not only did this support the realism of the natural occurrences within the novel, it likewise offered an informative history of what likely occurred. Coupled with Harris’ strong knowledge of this period, Pompeii provides an interesting insight into this major historical event, nestled within an intriguing fictional narrative.
Length: 338 (Hutchinson)
Overall Rating: 4.5 stars