Robb's Reviews > Pompeii

Pompeii by Robert   Harris
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M 50x66
's review
Mar 05, 2012

it was amazing

I'm always curious how an author (or a director in the case of Titanic) is going to take a situation about whose tragic outcome we are already aware and attempt to render it nevertheless suspenseful and narratively driving, and Robert Harris succeeds here beyond all expectation. In terms of books that have made an indelible impression on my memory in the recent past, this is at the top of the list. For pure force of visualization, detail that is not only brilliant and vivid - and bone-chilling - in its own right but that is also completely in service to the story, I have a hard time recalling a piece of writing so taut and well-executed. The pacing is near perfection. The mix between real and imagined characters - all equally well imagined - has the effect of giving them all a wonderfully tangible life. And I think Harris actually managed to leave me, going forward, picturing death itself as hovering a bit on the periphery of my life like the chillingly impersonal fireball spewing mountain in the near distance that is Vesuvius in this book. If I have one minor cavil it is that the book in a couple of brief asides a little too pointedly breaks its poker face, revealing itself to be clearly inspired by the political and historical obtuseness of the George W. Bush years. But of course for that I forgive him.
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