A Novel

Harris, Robert

Book - 2003
Average Rating: 3.5 stars out of 5.
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.

Publisher: New York : Random House, c2003
Edition: 1st ed
ISBN: 0812974611
Branch Call Number: FICTION HARRIS
Characteristics: 278 p. :,map ;,25 cm


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Nov 03, 2014
  • DanglingConversations rated this: 4 stars out of 5.

An interesting novel but lacks literary tension because we know the mountain is going to blow. Characters might have been better set in one of the remote towns so we would not be so sure about the outcome. Still a great lesson in history and engineering of the Roman aqueduct system. Well worth the read.

Mar 25, 2014
  • ehbooklover rated this: 3 stars out of 5.

A fictionalized account of the events leading up to the explosion of Mount Vesuvius told from the perspectives of an engineer, a young girl, a corrupt millionaire, and a scientist. Well researched and full of lots of interesting details about the culture of the Roman Empire, its amazing aqueduct system, and the causes and the timeline of a volcanic eruption.

Jun 09, 2012
  • 23305013033655 rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Good story. Great picture of life in the Roman times and the social issues that made the tragic eruption pain so much worse. It even has some romance.

May 26, 2012
  • Patron11822 rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

Suggested by a staff member at the Central branch, this book was an excellent read. Now if only I could remember the name of the Librarian, so I could pick her brain for more titles!

Mar 20, 2012
  • johnwilla rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

A very convincing account of the last few days before the eruption of Vesuvius that buried Pompeii and Herculaneum in 79 AD, and a young engineer who tries to solve the mystery of why water is being diverted from the city in the hottest part of the summer. The ending is particularly delicious, as chaos reigns and the young man and the upper-class woman he has fallen for survive the cataclysm.

Apr 05, 2011
  • miaone rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

I've read this novel twice now and will no doubt read it again and again through the years. Perhaps the best parts, for me, were those taken from ancient accounts of Vesuvius' 79 AD eruption, i.e. from Pliny and his nephew. Harris makes the reader feel the heat, the desperation, the confusion. It was satisfying that some very arrogant characters met with fates worthy of their cruelty and ignorance, and others, good people, whose fates were also painful, met their ends with dignity and courage. But overall was the mystery of why the water sources are failing which the young engineer solves piece by agonizing piece that I find so mesmerizing. If you've been to Europe and have seen the aqueducts that have survived 2000 years and countless wars, or maybe the ruins of Pompeii, you will especially like this book. But even if you've never seen them, you can still get caught up in the drama and truth within this novel.
Oh, and not everybody dies!

Mar 12, 2011
  • TheSponge rated this: 5 stars out of 5.

A skillfully written, well researched, intelligent, thought provoking, compelling, and most enjoyable book!


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