Italy – Pompeii by Robert Harris

I’m not ashamed to admit that I kinda love geology. I am completely fascinated by earthquakes and volcanoes, and I still remember the first time I learned about the lost city of Pompeii. So when someone recommended that I read Robert Harris’ Pompeii, I was psyched to get started. And it only seemed fitting to share this post today on the anniversary of Mount Vesuvius’ eruption.

Pompeii begins in the days leading up to August 24th, 79 AD. The central character is a hydraulics engineer (aka an aquarius) named Marcus Attilius Primus, and he is tasked with finding out why water is no longer flowing through his city’s aqueducts. (Spoiler alert: It’s because there’s going to be a volcanic eruption soon!)

Throughout the book, each chapter is prefaced with factual information about volcanoes and the snippets give you a clue as to what will happen in that chapter and how various changes within the earth’s core are causing the changes the characters are seeing up on the surface.

There’s also a whole lot of detail about aqueducts and how they work, which I personally found very fascinating. The Romans were way ahead of their time when it came to engineering! Even if this kind of detail isn’t really your thing, Harris is a wonderful storyteller and you’ll want to keep reading.

The book is actually fairly suspenseful despite the fact that you know how it’s going to end. It felt a bit like watching Titanic – you know it’s all going to crash and burn before you’re done with the book. But there are a couple little side stories throughout, and you’ll care about the outcome of the characters as they confront this catastrophic event.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It’s a great read for geology nerds and lovers of historical fiction alike. I studied in Italy when I was college and never made it to Pompeii, but Harris’ Pompeii made me feel like I was there on the fateful day. Pick this one up, and you can travel back to 79 AD in Italy, too!


For more information: Pompeii by Robert Harris

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