Pompeii by Robert Harris
A Novel (Harris, Robert)

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Synopsis

All along the Mediterranean coast, the Roman empire’s richest citizens are relaxing in their luxurious villas, enjoying the last days of summer. The world’s largest navy lies peacefully at anchor in Misenum. The tourists are spending their money in the seaside resorts of Baiae, Herculaneum, and Pompeii.

But the carefree lifestyle and gorgeous weather belie an impending cataclysm, and only one man is worried. The young engineer Marcus Attilius Primus has just taken charge of the Aqua Augusta, the enormous aqueduct that brings fresh water to a quarter of a million people in nine towns around the Bay of Naples. His predecessor has disappeared. Springs are failing for the first time in generations. And now there is a crisis on the Augusta’s sixty-mile main line—somewhere to the north of Pompeii, on the slopes of Mount Vesuvius.

Attilius—decent, practical, and incorruptible—promises Pliny, the famous scholar who commands the navy, that he can repair the aqueduct before the reservoir runs dry. His plan is to travel to Pompeii and put together an expedition, then head out to the place where he believes the fault lies. But Pompeii proves to be a corrupt and violent town, and Attilius soon discovers that there are powerful forces at work—both natural and man-made—threatening to destroy him.

With his trademark elegance and intelligence, Robert Harris, bestselling author of Archangel and Fatherland, re-creates a world on the brink of disaster.
 

About Robert Harris

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Robert Harris is the author of Pompeii, Enigma, and Fatherland. He has been a television correspondent with the BBC and a newspaper columnist for the London Sunday Times and The Daily Telegraph. His novels have sold more than ten million copies and been translated into thirty languages. He lives in Berkshire, England, with his wife and four children.
 
Published December 16, 2003 by Random House. 368 pages
Genres: History, Mystery, Thriller & Suspense, Literature & Fiction, Romance. Fiction

Unrated Critic Reviews for Pompeii

Kirkus Reviews

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Although they may be in Imperial drag, Harris’s slaves, masters, bureaucrats, and soldiers move through the streets of Pompeii, a pretty little city on the make, like .

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The New York Times

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Robert Harris’s hero, a hydraulic engineer as well as a literary sleuth, climbs to the top of Vesuvius.

Dec 21 2003 | Read Full Review of Pompeii: A Novel (Harris, Rob...

The New York Times

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Plaster casts made from hollowed-out molds of rock, where bodies had been captured a moment before they ceased to be.

Mar 03 2011 | Read Full Review of Pompeii: A Novel (Harris, Rob...

The Guardian

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Attilius followed the girl, Corelia, to the luxury villa of her father Ampliatus.

Sep 22 2003 | Read Full Review of Pompeii: A Novel (Harris, Rob...

The Guardian

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Pompeii by Robert Harris Hutchinson £17.99, pp342 Pompeii is set in a much warmer climate than Nazi Berlin, but it has one thing in common with Robert Harris's best-selling Fatherland.

Aug 24 2003 | Read Full Review of Pompeii: A Novel (Harris, Rob...

The Guardian

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Pompeii by Robert Harris 432pp, Hutchinson, £17.99 The ability to disguise the outcome is held to be a vital part of the thriller writer's art.

Sep 06 2003 | Read Full Review of Pompeii: A Novel (Harris, Rob...

Book Reporter

Young engineer Marcus Attilius is sent from Rome to wealthy and glamorous Pompeii to solve a pesky mystery: why has the aqueduct failed?

Jan 22 2011 | Read Full Review of Pompeii: A Novel (Harris, Rob...

Entertainment Weekly

He begins the novel with a chauvinistic pre-9/11 epigraph from Tom Wolfe sounding off on the United States' superiority in ''all matters,'' followed by a similar chest-beating remark from Pliny the Elder two years before Vesuvius blew.

Nov 21 2003 | Read Full Review of Pompeii: A Novel (Harris, Rob...

Christian Science Monitor

This review originally ran on Nov. 18, 2003.] One cataclysmic disaster can ruin your whole day, but at least it has the advantage of surprise.

Feb 01 2009 | Read Full Review of Pompeii: A Novel (Harris, Rob...

Reviewing the Evidence

Indeed, the ending of the book is so weak that I couldn't help but wonder whether Harris had himself lost interest in his characters once he'd finished with the story of the eruption.

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Reviewing the Evidence

Pompeii, however, still has all the water it could desire, and Attilius goes to Pompeii to persuade officials there to approve stopping their water supply for a while so as to give him and his crew time to repair what he has deduced must be a blockage.

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ReviewingtheEvidence.com

No place except Pompeii has water, so Attilus goes to Pliny the elder, Admiral at Miscenium, and asks for a ship to take him to Pompeii so he can find what has caused the water to stop flowing everywhere except in Pompeii.

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California Literary Review

As Cambridge classicist Mary Beard points out in the Introduction to her brilliant The Fires of Vesuvius: Pompeii Lost and Found, “The bigger picture and many of the more basic questions about the town remain very murky indeed.” It is Beard’s achievement to have maintained the highest possible le...

Mar 03 2009 | Read Full Review of Pompeii: A Novel (Harris, Rob...

Reviews in History

No one would deny that Pompeii, the city destroyed by the forces of nature – as when, in the words of the poet Leopardi, ‘an overripe tomato falls on an anthill’ – has attained the status of an archetype, outpacing even Atlantis (whose story must now be explained to the unfamiliar in terms of the...

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