English author, Robert Harris has penned an outstanding historical novel that takes us
through the devastation of the 79 A.D. eruption of Vesuvius.
Roman engineer, Marcus Attilius Primus, is appointed aquarius of the great aqueduct,
Aqua Augusta, when his predecessor disappears after 20 years in that position. The aqueduct
develops an interruption in the flow of water to the town of Misenum, and Attilius borrows
a ship from the admiral of the Roman fleet (the great scholar, Pliny, the Elder), to go
to Pompeii and find the source of the problem. Suspense and tension are stretched to the
limit as the Romans go into the damaged aquaduct to try to repair the floor of the tunnel
where the earth's upheaval has closed off the flow of water. Attilius' climb up the
face of the mountain reveals that eruption is imminent.
Corelia, the daughter of a former slave who is now a wealthy property owner and a tyrant,
is attracted to Attilius. The attraction is mutual between them, but she has been betrothed
to the old man who was formerly her father's owner. Corelia steals documents implicating
her father and Attilius's predecessor in a water embezzlement scheme and brings them to
Attilius as he is ascending Vesuvius to repair the aqueduct. He sends her home, but when
Vesuvius' eruption begins to escalate, he races hell to try to rescue this beautiful girl.
The action is fast and intense with characters that are fully developed and compelling,
both fictional and people that actually existed. The good guys and the villains will both
ultimately be at the mercy of the fury of Mount Vesuvius.
With realistic details of everyday life in first century Pompeii, peppered with intrigue
among the fascinating characters, Harris has written a humdinger of a historical fiction.
His lively writing, and convincing multi-level plot kept me reading most of the night to
get to the exciting finale.
Robert Harris is an author that is new to me, but I will definitely look up his earlier
books: Fatherland, Archangel and Enigma. I think he has been seriously
underrated as a writer.