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24 September 2014

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March 2004
Up Pompeii
Cover illustration Pompeii
BBC Leeds book reviewer Gavin Bradbury reads the latest Robert Harris blockbuster, Pompeii.

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Pompeii website

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The reviewer:
Gavin Bradbury, IT lecturer, enjoys
cartoons and books by men not called Jeffrey. Can't cook. Should get out more.

The author:
Robert Harris

Previous books:
Robert Harris was born in Nottingham in 1957 and is a graduate of Cambridge University. He has been a reporter on the BBC's Newsnight and Panorama programmes, Political Editor of the Observer, and a columnist on The Sunday Times. He is the author of five non-fiction books in addition to his bestselling fiction.

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Set in AD79, Harris' novel covers four days in the life of the engineer Marius Attilius Primus. Newly appointed as chief of the Aqua Augusta, the aqueduct that carries water to two hundred and fifty thousand people, he investigates a drastic drop in the strength of the water supply and the mysterious disappearance of his predecessor.

Gavin Bradbury
Book reviewer Gavin Bradbury

Attilius promises Pliny, the commander of the navy, that he will repair the aqueduct before the water supply runs out. The problem is near Vesuvius, so with a small team of men he sets out. Once there human greed is as big an obstacle as the increasing dangerous mountain.

Attilius and his team battle to repair the aqueduct in treacherous conditions.

Soon after completing the repairs Vesuvius erupts and Attilius must decide whether to escape or attempt to save the woman he loves.

Harris' book is a masterpiece of research and gives a vivid account of the sights and sounds of the first century around the Bay of Naples.

Unfortunately Harris' characters are less well
defined; character development always second to plot development. The love story that helps to define the end of the book is the least convincing aspect by far of the novel; it was difficult to care whether the hero would find his love or not.

A fine book therefore, but one which is more
satisfying in the reading than in the remembering.

Gavin Bradbury

Pompeii is out in hardback now.

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