It’s a sweltering August in the Bay of Naples in AD 79. The Aqua Augusta, the greatest aqueduct in the world, mysteriously fails along the coastline. Newly appointed engineer Marcus Attilius must travel to Pompeii to locate and clear the blockage in the shadow of Vesuvius and get the water flowing. But instinct tells him there is more to the story... what could have caused this mysterious blockage, and could be it be a sign of a bigger disaster yet to come?
Robert Harris is the master of putting the reader right in middle of a major historical moment, taking fact and weaving a narrative which is both compelling and enlightening. Through the story of a young engineer, battling to get the Aqua Augusta flowing, we experience what the 48hrs leading up to the eruption of Vesuvius could have been like like for those living in the luxurious villas in Pompeii and the surrounding towns along the Neapolitan coastline. And using source material from Pliny himself as a supporting character, the description of the two day long onslaught volcanic activity as it engulfs Pompeii and Herculaneum is utterly gripping.
Having visited Pompeii and the Naples coastline (side note - never wear flip flops in Pompeii unless you want to continually roll your ankle on the paving and not be able to climb Vesuvius the next day) made the book even more enjoyable.
Despite it being virtually impossible I imagine not to know how the saga ends (spoiler: the mountain is in fact a volcano and about to explode), this book is a masterpiece in suspense. The only element I could have done without is the love story which felt a little shoe horned in but I loved how the ending tied into old tales and the book's starting theme of the Aqua Augusta.
Artist, Baker and Blogger. Mum to my two beautiful, cheeky girls. Muddling my way through parenthood with equally cheeky Husband.