Picture from The Guardian

In 79 A.D., Mount Vesuvius in Italy erupted and buried a city called Pompeii in ash and pumice and it eventually was forgotten about until the 1500s. If you enjoy historical fiction and ever wondered about that place where people were buried alive during a volcanic eruption, the book Pompeii by Robert Harris is a great read.

The story mixes fictional characters with those that actually lived at the time. It follows the path of a young hydraulic engineer who comes to the region to look after the aqueduct. The story is filled with mystery, politics, history, intrigue and even a subtle love story.

I listened to this book on CD right after coming off of all my Michael Pollan food books so I was unsure what to expect with this book but Harris’ masterful storytelling sucked me in immediately. He brings the forgotten city of Pompeii and the people that inhabited it to life in such a vivid manner. He combines this with an impressive amount of knowledge about the workings of everyday Roman life and what kept their lives afloat, most notably the aqueducts that brought water for drinking and bathing purposes.

Though you know that the mountain blows and a way of life was brought to a halt, you can’t help but continue on with the story as each hour draws closer to the eruption. Yes, the volcano ruptures but in the end, the young hydraulic engineer walks away from the destruction with something that allows him to begin his life again. You gotta love happy endings.


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