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3.82  ·  Rating details ·  36,199 ratings  ·  2,471 reviews
With his trademark elegance and intelligence Robert Harris recreates a world on the brink of disaster.

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 B
Paperback, 274 pages
Published November 8th 2005 by Random House Trade Paperbacks (first published November 21st 2003)
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SuZanne There are some seedy sexual scenes, short, but neverthless, present.
There are some seedy sexual scenes, short, but neverthless, present.

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Average rating 3.82  · 
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 ·  36,199 ratings  ·  2,471 reviews

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Jim Fonseca
Sep 22, 2013 rated it really liked it
Attilius's occupation is an aquarius in the Roman Empire, a job description that nowadays would be "director of waterworks operations and maintenance for the southern district of Italy." As the earth beings to swell and shake in ominous warning in advance of the tragedy that is to come, the main aqueduct cracks and fails and Attilius is sent out to repair it. So this is a historical novel and we learn of life in the Roman Empire around AD 79 at the time of the eruption of Vesuvius. Here are mast ...more
Henry Avila
Jul 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
Pompeii... demolished in the world's most famous volcanic eruption in A.D. 79 killing thousands at the apex of the Roman Empire, ironically the people never knew Mount Vesuvius was this a volcano; understandable since the previous significant one occurred 1,800 years before, no town existed, and the name unknown to them because the word hadn't been invented yet, but soon would... lets say by borrowing from the Roman god of fire... Vulcan... Our story unfolds when a young despondent man of 27, a ...more
Lance Greenfield
Nov 12, 2012 rated it it was amazing
This is the story of a latter day Super Mario, an Italian plumber who overcomes very difficult challenges to fix the water supply to Napoli and surrounding areas before the local volcano erupts to ruin everything for everybody.

OK, I admit that I am grossly trivialising a tremendous story, which is really about Marcus Attilius Primus, the aquarius, or chief water engineer, who is sent to the Bay of Naples to manage the water supply to all of the towns in the area. The main artery of the supply i
Oct 03, 2019 rated it liked it
I started to read this novel after I visited Pompeii. I was impressed by the ruins of the city and its tragic history and I am a bit of a Volcanos enthusiast so I thought reading this will both help me find out more about life in that period and about the eruption. Reading a fast paced novel as I travelled was a plus. It did delivered on all aspects but it was nothing extraordinary. What made me give the novel less than 4 stars was the inappropriate language and behaviour compared to the period. ...more
I have been a bit fascinated with the idea of Pompeii since I was a girl and the National Geographic ran photos of the people frozen in mid-flight trying to escape the horrors of the eruption of Vesuvius. Robert Harris has visited Pompeii through the story of Attilius, the engineer in charge of the aqueduct that served the area. Before the eruption, before the horror, there is a problem with the flow of the water. Attilius seeks to repair the breach in the aqueduct and this leads him to be in Po ...more
Neil Pierson
May 27, 2008 rated it it was ok
It should be a Two-For-One: A suspense novel to take to the beach; and some insight into life in the Roman Empire and the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius. (And maybe a small tutorial in primitive plumbing.) Unfortunately, it turns into an 0-For-One.

The plot is serviceable. Marcus Attilius Primus is an engineer newly in charge of the section of aqueduct that services Pompeii. He investigates the mysterious failure of the water supply and along the way, discovers that his predecessor was corrupt. He fall
Joy D
Historical fiction about the eruption of Mount Vesuvius, covering a period of four days in 79 A.D. Attilius is an Aquarius, an engineer in charge of ensuring the water supply, of the Bay of Naples region. Attilius has been sent by Rome to replace the previous Aquarius, who has disappeared. The plot revolves around the Aqua Augusta, which has been damaged by natural phenomena.

The pace is somewhat slow in the beginning but picks up pace as it proceeds. The author introduces a number of characters
Geology meets Volcanology meets All Round Mr Nice Guy.
Having read Imperium by Robert Harris few short months ago I found that I quite enjoyed his uncomplicated writing style. I in no way mean unsophisticated or simplistic, for he is an author who can comfortably shoulder the mantle of an old fashioned storyteller.
Many authors try to be story tellers, but they over write or have not the skill and under write, or get caught up in too many tangents, thinking that everything they do has to be with
Sep 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
A most interesting take on the well known tale. Robert Harris is a favourite author.
Sam Quixote
Jul 24, 2011 rated it liked it
The waters have stopped flowing from the aquedect - who you gonna call? Dambusters! The water engineer heads out amid widespread corruption in Pompeii, thwarts a murder plot, finds out what happened to his predecessor, falls in love, and investigates the ominous rumbling from the nearby Vesuvius.

Sounds good no? Harris is good at building up the air of menace in the days preceding the eruption. Every action can be looked at as minor compared to the devastation coming and he really does a great j
After a day in Pompeii -- my mother claims I walked through every single house: not true, some are inaccessible -- I heard people on the platform of the Circumvesuviana local train talking about this book. I was being fussy about everything else I was reading, so I grabbed this on the Kindle store and kicked back with it (once we eventually got back to Rome, anyway; I read The Map of Time on the Eurostar).

It's a quick read, and reasonably accurate to the interpretations of what happened in Pompe
Mar 11, 2017 rated it it was ok
This book was just okay for me. I liked the historical side of this. I have always found this story kind of 'sadly fascinating'. I just didn't find 'that' in this book. This wasn't particularly character driven. There was a problem with the water plaguing the area and it focused mainly on that without giving depth to the characters. There was a lot time and detail that went into this problem, but I needed that same attention to detail regarding the people. The historical part felt well done; the ...more
Jul 17, 2015 rated it really liked it

In a little over seven hours, one thousand, nine hundred and thirty-six years ago Mt. Vesuvius will have finished the eruption that created the tourist attractions that we know today as Pompeii and Herculaneum.

Having experienced the eruption of Mt. St. Hellen in 1980, and know first hand what the ash fall was like, as a resident in Portland, Oregon, the time sequence and statistics of the volcanic events were fascinating!

The story of the Aquarius, Attilius and the Roman water syste
I recently read classicist Mary Beard's fascinating non-fiction book on Pompeii. This novel by Robert Harris is in many ways a nice complement to that, especially since it is narrated by a Roman engineer responsible for the aqueduct that supplied water to the coastal towns on the Bay of Naples, Pompeii among them. We think of the Romans as conquerors, of building a civilization based upon conquest. But Roman engineering was as much, if not more, of a driving force, and the Romans' ability to har ...more
One knows the end…then you start to read the beginning…. It’s rather challenging to craft a gripping novel based on a catastrophic historical and geological event – the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in 79 A.D., – but amazingly Robert Harris does just that. Attilius is the aquarius – the water engineer, as his father and grandfather had been before him, for the region surrounding the Bay of Naples, including the thriving city of Pompeii. A straight-up, earnest young man, his moral compass is steadfast ...more
Aug 26, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Think you have pressure at work? Consider Marcus Attilius Primus. He just received an important promotion from Rome. The young engineer is now the Aquarius, in charge of the immense aqueduct serving the entire bay of Naples. His predecessor has mysteriously disappeared. His workers are surly. The water supply is interrupted. And then he gets on the wrong side of one of the richest men around, a cruel former slave, the behind-the-scenes political boss of Pompeii. Of course, he does have a very be ...more
This just fell flat. I’m trying to figure out why.

First of all, the characters were one-dimensional. They were either all good or all bad, and not one had a personality. The writing was not great, though not horrible. I think it was all telling, no showing. There was no creativity in the writing, no clear voice. There’s sort of a romance thrown in at the end, but there is no reason for it; it is not believable.

The historical facts are rather interesting, and the timeline of the eruption is accur
Bev Walkling
I decided to read this book because my husband and I will be visiting Pompeii and Herculaneum later this year and it seemed like a good idea in preparation for the trip. I was not disappointed. The reader knows going into the story that things will not turn out well for Pompeii and yet despite that I was drawn in and hoped for survival for at least some of the characters. I really wanted to keep reading until I was done. Although this was a novel, it was very well researched including quotes fro ...more
Jan 01, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Rosianna by: Mr Lapish
Absolutely fantastic, and entirely unputdownable. At first you're unsure what kind of route Harris is going to take on Vesuvius' eruption as it opens with talk of aqueducts and engineers, but in the space of a few hundred pages, he recreates the bay of Naples vividly and realistically, so you really do feel get an idea of the timescale and the emotions, all built in to this great read.
Lady Clementina ffinch-ffarowmore
This is a piece of historical fiction with a mix of mostly fictional but also some real historical figures set in the backdrop of the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. Marcus Attilius Primus is a young engineer sent to take charge of the Aqua Augusta, one of the largest and most complex aqueduct systems in ancient Rome that supplied water to nine cities. The previous aquarius, Exominius has vanished without a trace, and there are problems creeping up with the water supply, from the sulphurous ...more
Lisa Vegan
3 ½ stars

I have wanted to read this book for a decade

I’ve loved science, and particularly geology, from a very early age, and chose a science class in 5th grade that focused on volcanoes, so my interest is long standing.

I think a non-fiction book about this eruption, if it contained all the known information and conjectures, might have been an even better choice for me.

I got used the fictional story and it did provide a fairly good backdrop for the setting and happenings in that time and place.
Dec 19, 2015 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars. Not 5 because there were one or two frankly cheesy bits!

Robert Harris brings the eruption of Vesuvius to life in this account which starts 3 days beforehand when the signs were there for anyone with sufficient knowledge to recognise. Sadly, few were in that position but thanks to Pliny's eye witness account, the knowledge was made available to future generations. This is a fascinating account of the build up to the eruption, with each chapter headed by a quote from a scientific journa
Aug 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Before he wrote “Imperium” and “Lustrum”, his two magnificent novels of the Cicero trilogy (Now available “Dictator”, the third one, which I’m eager to read), Robert Harris wrote “Pompeii”, a novel based on the historical volcano eruption during the roman era. Having visited the place a few years ago I wanted to not miss this one.
Not to the great standard as the Cicero ones, “Pompeii” is nevertheless a great read, full of realistic moments about the inferno that took place on 24 August 79 AD, th
Dec 03, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Anna by: mymediamall
In many ways this is such a subtly wonderful story.

"Men mistook measurement for understanding. And they always had to put themselves at the center of everything. That was their greatest conceit. The earth is becoming warmer - it must be our fault! The mountain is destroying us - we have not propitiated the gods! It rains too much, it rains too little - a comfort to think that these things are somehow connected to our behavior, that if only we lived a little better, a little more frugally, our vi
Sep 29, 2017 rated it it was ok
Nope. Not for me. I almost DNF this book. When I willed myself to read it, I just skimming it without understanding the story.
Gumble's Yard
Apr 19, 2018 rated it liked it
His fourth thriller after “Fatherland”, “Enigma” and “Archangel”.

It tells the story of Pompeii via character of am Aquarius (water engineer maintaining the incredibly advanced roman aqueducts” – Attilius.

He is concerned that water is failing (and contaminated with sulphur) also his predecessor has mysteriously disappeared – all of it seems to lead to Pompeii and a ruthless ex-slave who made his dishonest fortune rebuilding the town after an earthquake (and who seems to have diverted water with
Nov 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
An excellent read! This seasoned author displayed excellent writing mechanics The read was smooth and clear. I was most surprised that I could understand the water duct system which Attilius, the engineer, repaired even as Vesuvius was showing signs of volcanic activity. The volcano seemed to catch the citizens of Pompeii and other bay cities unaware., which is hard for me to understand. In every account I have read about the 79 A.D. eruption, the extreme heat has been noted. Whether that extrem ...more
Jan 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
Harris has given us a wonderful version of what it would have been like to go through the eruption of Vesuvius. His main character is an engineer, a water engineer. The engineer is an unassuming character dedicated to his work. We experience the eruption through the eyes of this engineer and because of this point of view, the story takes on more meaning and immediacy.

It is this point of view that really makes the story for me. It's obvious that Harris has done his research. As I read the novel I
I was curious how Robert Harris would write a novel about the day Mt. Vesuvius erupted and buried the city of Pompeii. Could he make it interesting? How would he go about it?

I'm a sucker for apocalyptic movies. I discovered within the first few pages that Harris used a couple of tried a true methods that are used in those movies. First, we all know what's going to happen, so he starts with a countdown, beginning two days before the eruption. Next, each chapter is prefaced with an interesting fac
I gave this book 4 stars because the protagonist (Marcus Attilius Primus) and I share the same profession - that of being a civil engineer. I was fascinated by the Aqua Augusta, the aqueduct that brought fresh water to people in nine towns around the Bay of Naples including Pompeii.

True, we all at least know what happened in Pompeii due to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius. So at first I was a bit unsure about reading this fictionalized account of one of the most infamous cataclysms in human histor
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ROBERT HARRIS is the author of nine best-selling novels: Fatherland, Enigma, Archangel, Pompeii, Imperium, The Ghost Writer, Conspirata, The Fear Index, and An Officer and a Spy. Several of his books have been adapted to film, most recently The Ghost Writer, directed by Roman Polanski. His work has been translated into thirty-seven languages. He lives in the village of Kintbury, England, with his ...more

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