Historical novel set in early 20th Century PETROGRAD
Five great books set in Pompeii
24th August 2018
Pompeii is the latest destination in our ‘Five great books set in…’ series. ‘Five great books set in Pompeii’
Pompeii was an ancient Roman city in the Campania region of Italy. Near modern Naples, the city was buried under up to 6 metres of volcanic ash when nearby Vesuvius erupted in AD 79. Many of Pompeii’s inhabitants were buried and the city has been largely preserved, thanks to a lack of air and moisture in the area. A living museum, Pompeii provides a remarkable insight into daily life during the Roman Empire two thousand years ago.
Now a UNESCO World Heritage site, it is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Italy. So grab one of the books below when you go, and bring Pompeii to even more vivid life through the power of literature.
The Last Days of Pompeii by Edward George Bulwer-Lytton
The Last Days of Pompeii is a novel written by the baron Edward Bulwer-Lytton in 1834. The novel was inspired by the painting The Last Day of Pompeii by the Russian painter Karl Briullov, which Bulwer-Lytton had seen in Milan. Once a very widely read book and now relatively neglected, it culminates in the cataclysmic destruction of the city of Pompeii by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. The novel uses its characters to contrast the decadent culture of 1st-century Rome with both older cultures and coming trends. The protagonist, Glaucus, represents the Greeks who have been subordinated by Rome, and his nemesis Arbaces the still older culture of Egypt. Olinthus is the chief representative of the nascent Christian religion, which is presented favourably but not uncritically. The Witch of Vesuvius, though she has no supernatural powers, shows Bulwer-Lytton’s interest in the occult – a theme which would emerge in his later writing, particularly The Coming Race.
Pompeii explodes a number of myths – from the very date of the eruption, probably a few months later than usually thought: the hygiene of the baths which must have been hotbeds of germs: and the legendary number of brothels, most likely only one, to the massive death count which was probably less than ten per cent of the population.
Street Life, Earning a Living: Baker, Banker and Garum Maker (who ran the city), The Pleasure of the Body: Food, Wine, Sex and Baths, these chapter headings give a surprising insight into the workings of a Roman town. At the Suburban Baths we go from communal bathing to hygiene to erotica. A fast-food joint on the Via dell’ Abbondanza introduces food and drink and diets and street life
These are just a few of the strands that make up an extraordinary and involving portrait of an ancient town, its life and its continuing re-discovery, by Britain’s leading classicist.
The eruption of Italy’s Mount Vesuvius in AD 79 buried a city and its people, their treasures and secrets. Centuries later, echoes of this disaster resonate with profound consequences in the life of classics professor Sophie Chase.
Beneath layers of volcanic ash lies the Villa della Notte – the Night Villa – once home to the captivating slave girl at the heart of an ancient controversy. And concealed in a subterranean labyrinth rests a cache of antique documents believed lost to the ages: a prize too alluring for Sophie to resist.
But whatever shocking events transpired in the face of Vesuvius’s fury has led to deeper intrigues – and Sophie is swiftly sucked into their dark and terrifying vortex . . .
A sweltering week in late August. Where better to enjoy the last days of summer than on the beautiful Bay of Naples? But even as Rome’s richest citizens relax in their villas around Pompeii and Herculaneum, there are ominous warnings that something is going wrong. Wells and springs are failing, a man has disappeared, and now the greatest aqueduct in the world – the mighty Aqua Augusta – has suddenly ceased to flow.
Through the eyes of four characters – a young engineer, an adolescent girl, a corrupt millionaire and an elderly scientist – Robert Harris brilliantly recreates a luxurious world on the brink of destruction.
(If you’re a fan of Robert Harris, read our #AuthorsOnLocation piece for more of his thrilling books, set in different locations).
‘It has been almost fifteen years. I’ve thought about you often, mostly unkindly. But there: I have thought about you.’
Nearly twenty years after Vita broke off contact with Royce, he writes to her, determined to excavate the past. He is older than her, a ghost from her university days, a former benefactor she has tried hard to forget. In his own youth, Royce spent two fateful summers working on a dig in Pompeii with a woman he would later memorialize with a scholarship – the same one that Vita eventually received.
From opposite sides of the world, Royce and Vita enter into an adversarial dance: an attempt to settle old accounts. Profoundly addictive and unsettling, In the Garden of the Fugitives is a thrilling psychological examination of what happens when the lines are blurred between victim and predator, between loyalty and obsession.
The Wolf Den by Elodie Harper
An engaging, female-focussed novel set in ancient Pompeii, from an exciting new voice in historical fiction.
The streets of Pompeii have a life of their own: the cries of the hawkers, the beauty and dirt of the crowds, the shifts in mood from delight to danger. These are the streets that have become Amara’s home. Day after day she must walk them, looking for business to bring back to her master’s house: the Wolf Den, Pompeii’s infamous brothel.
The realities of her existence are made bearable by the other she-wolves at the Wolf Den. Together they can gossip, offer comfort and dream; and their dreams, when woven together, create a picture of life that makes Amara catch her breath.
They may only be dreams for now, as insubstantial as the candle smoke that follows the flame, but Amara is determined to make them burn bright. She is only a slave in this beginning, but all good stories must start somewhere…
The House With the Golden Door by Elodie Harper
Amara has escaped her life as a slave in Pompeii’s most notorious brothel. She now has a house, fine clothes, servants – but all are gifts from her patron, hers for as long as she keeps her place in his affections.
As she adjusts to this new life, Amara is still haunted by her past. At night she dreams of the wolf den, and the women she left behind. By day, she is pursued by her former slavemaster.
In order to be truly free, Amara will need to be as ruthless as he is. She knows she can draw strength from Venus, the goddess of love. Yet falling in love herself may prove to be Amara’s downfall.
The final instalment in Elodie Harper’s Sunday Times bestselling Wolf Den Trilogy
A courtesan in Rome. Playing for power. Haunted by her past. Her name is Amara. How will her fortunes fall?
Amara’s journey has taken her far, from a lowly slave in Pompeii’s brothel to a high-powered courtesan in Rome. She is now a freedwoman with wealth and influence, yet she is still drawn back to her past.
For while Amara is caught up in the political scheming of the Imperial palace, her daughter remains in Pompeii, raised by the only man she ever truly loved. Although she longs for her family, Amara knows they are safest while she is far away. Perhaps, with enough cunning and courage, she will manage to turn Fortuna’s wheel in their favour.
But the year is ad 79, and Mount Vesuvius is preparing to make itself known…
The sunlight caught her gold bracelet, sending a flash that almost blinded her.
She closed her eyes, but jumped when the earth started shaking and there was an almighty boom behind her.
Finally escaping an abusive marriage, Caterina Rossi takes her three-year-old daughter and flees to Italy. There she’s drawn to research scientist Connor, who needs her translation help for his work on volcanology. Together they visit the ruins of Pompeii and, standing where Mount Vesuvius unleashed its fire on the city centuries before, Cat begins to see startling visions. Visions that appear to come from the antique bracelet handed down through her family’s generations…
Sold by his half-brother and enslaved as a gladiator in Roman Pompeii, Raedwald dreams only of surviving each fight, making the coin needed to return to his homeland and taking his revenge. That is, until he is hired to guard beautiful Aemilia. As their forbidden love grows, Raedwald’s dreams shift like the ever more violent tremors of the earth beneath his feet.
The present starts eerily to mirror the past as Cat must fight to protect her safety, and to forge a new path from the ashes of her old life…
Fancy further titles set in POMPEII? Just trawl the TripFiction Database here!
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