Review: “Pompeii” by Robert Harris

Thumbs up for Pompeii by Robert Harris. Historical fiction.

Marcus Attilius Primus, aqueduct engineer from a long line of aqueduct engineers, tries to figure out why the water’s stopped running; and discovers more than he bargained for. (Hint: the title’s a spoiler.) Not Great with a capital G, but a good solid page-turner with a really impressive depth of historical research about the working of the Roman aqueducts. It’s nice to read a book in which the main character is an engineer who solves his problems by doing, you know, engineering.

The engineer could stand here, listening and lost in thought, for hours. The percussion of the Augusta sounded in his ears not as a dull and continuous roar but as the notes of a gigantic water organ: the music of civilization. There were air shafts in the piscina’s roof, and in the afternoons, when the foaming spray leaped in the sunlight and rainbows danced between the pillars – or in the evenings, when he locked up for the night and the flame of his torch shone across the smooth black surface like gold splashed on ebony – in those moments, he felt himself to be not in a reservoir at all, but in a temple dedicated to the only god worth believing in.

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