This was a hard book to put down. It takes place during the three days preceding the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D. The level of research that obviously went into this book is incredible. One of my favorite parts of the book were the snippets at the beginning of each chapter from books on volcanology, explaining in very scientific detail the likely events occurring beneath the mountain leading up to the eruption.
I really liked the main character, aqueduct engineer, Marcus Attilius. An honorable man of integrity and drive, he was easy to get to know, and even easier to root for. His love interest, Corelia, is worth mentioning, but there isn’t much time to get to know her.
I really appreciated the level of detail in describing the culture and depravity of the city of Pompeii. Some of the details made me very uncomfortable, but it definitely reflects the reality of Roman society at the time. The evil present in the city and society at large was heinous, and Harris portrays it as such. There is no room for sympathy toward the villains of the story. Frankly, I like that. Evil is evil, and good is good.
I also loved Pliny – I’ve never known much about him, and now I am intrigued about this historical figure. I think I would like to search out a biography of the man who so dearly loved nature and science.
As for some of the other characters, while their development wasn’t incredibly deep, Harris manages to elicit feelings about each one. Some of them you pity and despise at the same time. Others you wish to know better. The volcano keeps that from happening, though. And the end leaves you feeling the way such a tragedy would. It feels a little bit as though so many lives were left unfinished, but I was satisfied with such an ending.
You are kind of left with the shock of the aftermath, unsure what to think, but hoping for the best for the few survivors in Pompeii.