Timothy Urban's Reviews > Pompeii: The Life of a Roman Town

Pompeii by Mary Beard
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really liked it

I didn't enjoy this as much as I thought I would. That's mostly because I know Mary Beard from her TV documentaries where she's at her best I think. She get's down in the dust and pokes around, she has that sort of glee and wry sense of humour about things that betrays a grand passion for history.

In print she's far more restrained. She keeps preempting things by saying 'you may have read this theory about Pompeii in other books...but there's little evidence for it.' - If this is the first book you've read on Pompeii, that can get a bit dull.

There are dull passages. I felt the motivation to continued ebb at several points. I got a bit bored of reading 'the truth is we just don't know' at the end of every other paragraph. I imagined there would be a lot more certainty in this town preserved. And the thought kept coming that a lot of Pompeii is still buried - and many of the answers are probably yet to be found. So this can't be a definite introduction.

It's probably to her credit that she doesn't sensationalise any aspect of Roman life. Gladiators and temple priests and prostitutes and the duoviri all start to seem real, recognizable and - sadly for someone who wanted more excitement - a bit ordinary. I suppose that's the job of the historian, to make it real rather than spin out a romantic myth.
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Reading Progress

December 18, 2017 – Started Reading
December 18, 2017 – Shelved
December 22, 2017 – Finished Reading

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