Reviews of: A. D. 62: Pompeii, a novel by Rebecca East

Visit the Pompeii Gateway page at http://www.rebecca-east.com/gateway.htmlfor: Illustrations from ancient works of art that inspired the descriptions of characters and settings in the novel; links to sites about Roman history and archaeology; on line communities for people interested in the ancient world; travel information for Pompeii; on-line shopping for replicas of ancient artifacts; an interactive map of Pompeii; and more.

From: Midwest Book Review, April 2003

A.D. 62: Pompeii is an engaging time-travel novel about a twenty-first century woman who is sent to first century Pompeii when a time travel experiment fails to work as planned. Adopted into a wealthy family as a house slave, Miranda manages to improve her lot through telling stories, yet the master's wife becomes jealous and plots vengeance against her. Superbly written, A.D. 62: Pompeii is a compelling and imaginative saga of romance, adaptation, and adventure.

Historical Novel Society, Reviews, Issue 24, May 2003, p. 34

http://www.historicalnovelsociety.org/

A volunteer in a time travel experiment, the studious Miranda has prepared herself for everything except arriving in the middle of the Mediterranean. Pulled from the sea by a poor fisherman, she swiftly finds herself sold as a house slave. She begins her new life in 62 A. D. in the Roman city of Pompeii, in the patrician household of Marcus Tullius. Although well versed in the manners and mores of Imperial Rome, Miranda discovers there's a vast difference between theory and reality and then she discovers that the recall device planted in her arm doesn't work. She's trapped in 62 A. D.

Now her life as a household slave is no longer a game she can end at will. Facing the realization that she is imprisoned in time, Miranda calls upon all her knowledge and training to improve her lot. Using her talent for storytelling and her historical knowledge, she gains prestige as a seer who can accurately predict the future. Miranda's quick mind and quiet courage enable her to mold a new life and to create a place for herself in the frightening, fascinating world of the past.

An interesting, well-told story (think Upstairs, Downstairs crossed with I, Claudius) with a strong and intelligent heroine, A. D. 62: Pompeii draws the reader into a vividly imagined ancient world. Definitely recommended.

Reviewed by India Edghill

From: Romantic Times, June 2003 (**** Four Stars)

http://www.romantictimes.com/

Rebecca East restores the ruins of Pompeii to vibrant color with a detailed immersion into the once prosperous, ancient Roman resort town and the private villas, elaborate gardens and markets, bath houses and political forums that stood before the catastrophic eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD. Sick of her 21st-century reality, Miranda takes part in a time-travel experiment to the fascinating forgotten city of Pompeii. She lands in the custody of fishermen who sell her into slavery. Fortunately, she is bought by a wealthy family that treats slaves well, but she is assigned the most menial of tasks. She soon tires of the domestic-servant status that keeps her homebound and prevents her from exploring the culture and society outside. Plans to escape back to her century go awry when the homing device implanted in her arm fails and Miranda is forced to return to her master's home, where reality sets in and she is punished. Believing she'll never return to the present, Miranda adapts to the household and town earning a reputation for telling stories and playing her recorder. As she becomes comfortable in her new world, she is attracted to the master of the house {plot spoiler deleted here}. Rebecca East deals with the ambivalence, confusion and guilt over slavery and parallels these emotions to the modern world. More astute as a historical storyteller than a romantic novelist, the author has produced a compelling page-turner. It may have a slower pace and less intense emotions than you'd expect in a love story, but it is a must-read for those who wish to visit the real Pompeii.

Excerpts from: The Best Reviews, May 21, 2003

http://thebestreviews.com/review12973

Here's a unique "back-in-time" novel... Rebecca East adroitly develops the main characters, Miranda, Demetrius, their master Marcus Tullius, his wife Holconia, their two children Marcus Jr., 14 and Tullia, 13. Three other slaves play significant roles in the novel: Alexander, the household steward, Iris, a beautiful 27 year old that Holconia sent to her husband after Tullia was born, and Cnaeus, the cook. Julia Felix plays a major role late in the novel. East creates a tender and charming interaction of Miranda and the other characters. She brings in scenes of courage, love, loyalty, selflessness, bravery and heroism. East's story would be interesting in any time period, but her placing the story in first-century Italy (with her knowledge of Roman history and archaeology) adds a charm that fascinates and educates. The reader gets an in-depth exposure to Roman life and customs.

Miranda is free to bail out any time, and, at times she is ready to do so, but her curiosity to see more of the undamaged Pompeii and to experience more of the Roman culture keeps her there. Eventually, as she gets to know and love the people, a decision to return becomes more and more difficult. Without spoiling the story for you, I can say that this novel will captivate you and make you wonder if you would actuate the device. Rebecca East has put together a fascinating story, not only about what life would be like in ancient Rome, but a story about characters who become alive in your mind.

Reviewed by Maurice A. Williams

From Synergise travel web site:

http://www.synergise.com/

This well-crafted love story is realistically set in Pompeii just before it suffered from the volcanic activities of nearby Vesuvius. East treats us to a remarkably readable and well-informed view of what life was like in those times - through the eyes of a slave. It is a page-turner from the start. The protagonist, Miranda, ends up stranded in Pompeii when a time travel experiment fails to bring her back to modern times. Although this work has a sci-fi, time-travel wrapper, virtually the entire novel is set in ancient Pompeii, so you don't need to be put off if sci-fi is not your thing; you can forget that aspect after about two pages - and just live the times. This well-researched work bases many of its characters on people who actually lived there at the time - in houses from that vicinity.

I believe the really good books one reads in a lifetime are those that are remembered long after reading them. And you know which these will be by the impression they make on you at the time. For me, this Pompeii novel is just such a book and I invite you to consider whether it might become one of yours.

Reviewed by Ian Kampel, Synergise.com, 12th April 2005

LouisaBrown.net,

http://louisabrown.net/AD62.htm

.... things go very wrong when [Miranda] finds herself unable to return to the future and a runaway slave in an ancient land. She finds herself closely watched and trapped not only in the past but also in her unwanted role as a slave. She also finds that as a slave, men in the household try to treat her as their property. With men making advances to her from all quarters Miranda's position is very precarious and she has to learn to tread a fine line where she does not make enemies with the men around her but does not unwittingly encourage them either. But life for Miranda is not all bad and she finds friends not only amongst the other slaves but also with Tullia the daughter of the household. A young girl whose life is arranged for her, she is drawn to Miranda to hear stories of women who take charge of their own lives. But Marcus, the master of the house, is far from happy about the influence his new slave has over his daughter. He cannot however deny that some of her stories are enjoyable and he listens to her tales as avidly as his daughter. Miranda soon finds that she is attracted to Marcus but not only is he married to the vindictive Holconia he already has a lover amongst the slaves.With the attention of Marcus upon her Miranda finds herself elevated in the household and her storytelling and prophesizing earn her the respect and thanks of her master. It also earns her his love. But nothing can change the fact that Miranda is a slave and Marcus is her master. He allows her the freedom that she craves but she finds it is only an illusion and he will do anything to keep her with him, even at the risk of losing her love. But when he loses her entirely Miranda finds out just how much she means to her lover and what lengths he will go to, to get her back.

With a strong historical setting and a wealth of information about the ancient city of Pompeii this novel is unique in its setting. Well drawn characters add to the story and in particular the character of Marcus springs to mind as a wonderful three dimensional character.The secondary characters are also a delight and although they never take over the story enough to intrude on the lives of the central characters they are nonetheless powerfully brought to life by Rebecca East. A wonderfully original and enchanting novel.

RATING: Four Hearts

Reviewed by Louisa Brown

Loves Romances

http://www.loveromances.com/adpompeii_liz.html

Miranda is shy, short and unremarkable, but she’s completely in love with the idea of Ancient Rome. … [but things] don’t go as planned. Soon, she’s robbed of all her belongings, and sold as a slave for 100 sesterces (no more than the price of a choice cut of meat)…After two weeks working as a house slave, Miranda decides she’s had enough, and tries to return home. The signal device, however, doesn’t work. She’s forced to accept the idea that the rest of her life will be spent in slavery, during a time in which women were not valued for their intelligence and opinions, and life as a slave offered many perils. As time passes, she finds herself unable to fit in. Miranda quickly realizes she’s surrounded by enemies, and she’s losing her heart to the head of the household, Marcus Tullius. Can a slave ever hope to be more to her master than just another mistress? Can Miranda adjust to this new existence without longing for the life she left behind?

Rebecca East paints a rich and vivid picture of Ancient Rome. She offers the reader an intimate and detailed look at the culture and life in a wealthy Roman household, and explores the struggles faced by those of the serving class. The abundance of historical fact takes this novel beyond the realm of time-travel romance, and lands it firmly into the genre of historical literature. The characters are multi-dimensional, and this reviewer felt drawn to all of them. Miranda’s struggles to find her purpose in Ancient Rome resonate with the modern reader trying to find his or her role in today’s society. The relative coldness of Roman citizens is expertly contrasted to our modern day expectations and ideals of romantic love, which they viewed as a concept for the weak. The deeply satisfying ending will stay with the reader long after the last page has been turned. A.D. 62: POMPEII is an exquisite tale set in a remarkable locale, perfect for history buffs, romance enthusiasts and fans of a great story alike!

Reviewed by LIZ, August, 2003

Assessment of Historical Accuracy

Reviews by two professional historians are posted at:

http://www.stockton.edu/~roman/fiction/east.htm

http://www.stockton.edu/~roman/fiction/newreview.htm

Excerpts from the Fred Mench review:

This novel involves time-travel and thus might be classed as fantasy or science fiction, but the time-travel is only a means to move a 21st century Harvard ABD in classics back to shortly before the first earthquake at Pompeii. She brings along her knowledge of the ancient world, including Latin and Greek (which she finds to be rather bookish for common conversation) as well as a knowledge of what would eventually happen, but she shares this knowledge with only 2 people, and only near the end of the novel. She brings, of course, her attitudes as a modern educated and liberated woman to an era when women were rarely educated and hardly ever liberated. This problem is compounded for our narrator, Miranda, when she is, right from the start, sold into slavery, where, for a while, she has even less chance to speak her mind or use her talents.

East, who has a good background in classics and archeology but is currently a professor in a different field, has done solid research and used good sources for Roman daily life and Pompeian topography and architecture, which she discusses in her 4-page Appendix. She has also created interesting characters in Miranda and the members of the household where she serves. A running motif is the failure of her return button to work, so she is stranded in 62 AD, whatever is going wrong (and she suffers 2 beatings and a good bit of hard work). East keeps us guessing whether the device will finally work and bring her back her own time, and I won't tell.

… The major problem with the book is also, perhaps, its greatest virtue - the amount of detail about Roman life. If you want to know what food, social mores, architecture, medicine, dress, etc. were like in this period in a small wealthy town, you could not have a better start than this book…East tells the reader in the appendix about the historical characters she has woven into the plot and the literary and artistic materials she has incorporated or used as inspirations. This firm historical basis helps to give the novel its feeling of real Romanness, contrasted, of course, with the 21st century attitudes and practices that Miranda brings along. Miranda finds an ally in Marcus’s friend Julia Felix, a wealthy widow with a willingness to stretch women’s roles a bit. She also has the help of two fellow slaves, the generally surly cook and Demetrius, the well-educated Greek that helped Miranda come to Marcus' house in the first place and who conceals a sexual secret until Miranda finds it out near the end.

There are villains, of course, principally Holconia, Marcus’ sharp-tongued and bitter wife, and Mamius Flaccus, who tries to keep Miranda as his slave, but they are all overcome. Miranda gets to experience being a slave, and brings to us a better perspective on what that might entail, good and bad, and a freedwoman, which allows her to experience a different life-style. Miranda’s modern knowledge is drawn upon mainly in two instances: when she correctly predicts the earthquake that destroys much of Pompeii (but not Marcus’ holdings, since he believed her) and when she treats correctly, with modern knowledge of how diseases spread, an illness that kills some of the household but spares most of the rest. These 2 efforts increase her stature with her master. It is interesting to watch how Miranda becomes an accomplished storyteller and musician by drawing on Shakespeare and Hans Christian Anderson for plots and her recorder repertory of Mozart et alii.

By seeing Marcus’ relationship with his wife, with Miranda and with his slave mistress, Iris, we get a view of the kinds of attitudes a Roman paterfamilias considered good and relatively enlightened might have, and can draw from that (and from the few other masters we see) what less good masters could be like. We see the relationships among slaves in a household presented as well as any Roman novel I’ve read. Given the fact that East’s professional field is psychology, this is a reasonable area for her to develop.

Overall, I liked the novel and felt it presented a probably accurate picture of what one household might have been like in Pompeii of 62 AD. I recommend it to any reader, but especially to those whose interest is strongly historical.

Review by Dr. Fred Mench, Professor of Classics, Richard Stockton College of New Jersey

Comments on historical accuracy from Dr. Richard Weigel's review:

There are numerous historical novels about ancient Greece or Rome, but only a few of them focus on women's or slaves' lives in these classical societies. The setting for A.D. 62: Pompeii is the resort town near Naples that was preserved and immortalized by the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius in A.D. 79. Seventeen years earlier much of the city was damaged by a serious earthquake. Miranda, a young woman who had studied classical archeology at Harvard, becomes the subject for an experiment in time travel. She is catapulted back to the first century A.D. and winds up near Pompeii, where she is enslaved, but where her knowledge of the past also allows her to "foretell" the earthquake. She is sold to a family as a domestic slave and becomes very close to the young daughter and eventually to her father, while at the same time attracting hostility from the mistress of the house. Miranda’s interactions with other slaves and with the master's family provide the forum of action for the novel.

Through this scenario the author is able to bring the reader into Roman family life and, along the way, present insights into women's roles, the institution of slavery, and the legal system as well. Miranda's observations of daily routines, objects, and customs are both instructive and entertaining. While she takes comfort in the knowledge that she can return to the present if things get too difficult or threatening, as time passes the reader begins to question whether or not she will be able or even want to activate this mechanism. The author's periodic reference to modern cultural images provides both comparison and contrast...

A.D. 62: Pompeii is an interesting novel that holds the reader's interest. It is both an adventure and a love story wrapped into one… Historical information is generally accurate, and any reader who finds the classical world exciting or who might be particularly attracted by this different perspective should find A.D. 62: Pompeii an enjoyable and interesting reading experience. (This review also appeared in: Daily News, Bowling Green, Kentucky, Sunday May 25, 2003, page 11C.)

Reviewed by Dr. Richard Weigel, Western Kentucky University History Department.

Recommendations on High School Reading Lists:

Greenhill School

http://www.greenhill.org/facultyfolders/US/languagedept/worcester/latin%20main%20links/latin%20book%20links.htm

Notre Dame K-12 summer reading list

http://www.notredame.k12.nj.us/images/pdf_files/SumRd03.pdf#search='Rebecca%20East%20Pompeii

Silicon Valley High School teaching unit on ancient Rome

http://siliconvalleyhigh.sccoe.org/silicon/PDFs/PompeiiExcavationHistoryLessonPlan.pdf#search='Rebecca%20East%20Pompeii

Nazareth Academy "Latin fun"

http://www.nazarethacademyhs.org/depts/language/nazareth-latin/pages/latin-fun.html

Recommended Age Level: Adults, and Young Adults in High School or College

Comment by Dr. Fred Mench at http://www.stockton.edu/~roman/fiction/east.htm:

For teachers of Latin or Roman history looking for a way to make this material palatable to those who would rather read novels than a textbook, this would be a good choice. There is some sex in it, but mostly discreet. You might not want to use it for junior high, but high school students are not likely to find anything they’ve not already met in much more graphic form.

Additional Review and link to author interview:

RebeccasReads.com, June 15, 2003

When a time travel experiment goes awry, a 21st century woman is stranded in Pompeii & sold as a slave.

It is hard to categorize this novel. Partly because of its element of time travel, which would put it into “science fiction”, except A.D.62: Pompeii is more an exploration of an ancient culture as seem through a modern archaeologist’s eyes, as well as a tale about the power of story telling.

Thirty-something Miranda isn’t comfortable or happy in her life. Her studies at Harvard have steeped her in classical archaeology with a good working knowledge of Latin & the Roman world. She has always longed for distant days far from “the sound and fury of modern times.” She has also longed to be a heroine. When a group of researchers discover the means to transport people back in time, she signs up. She is the perfect guinea pig—no family, no marriage, no ties.

With her knowledge of the era, much training & fitted with an escape disk inserted beneath the skin on her arm, the great day arrives, & off she spins through time to the Roman world of 62 A.D...

...and lands in the Mare Nostrum (Mediterranean Sea) in a bright afternoon, where she spies a small fishing vessel, & is hauled on board in the fishermen’s net.

...and so into the legends Miranda goes. Among the people of that time, she stands out with her pale hair and complexion, and unheard of language. In those civilized days everyone has their place, the oddity of a single woman with no family immediately casts her lot as a slave to be traded for money, & passed from broker to broker. Then she befriends another slave, Demetrius, a scribe and witty fellow who has fallen on hard time. He is injured and Miranda helps to heal him. He also knows the ways of the world. After he is bought he convinces his new owner to also purchase this “ugly” waif.

Miranda is bought and brought into the household of landowner, Marcus Tullius and his wife Holconia, their son and daughter and their slaves. Now she is a member of a family and must learn the intricacies of an Upstairs/Downstairs life, Roman style.

A.D.62: Pompeii is an enchanting, down-to-earth "what if" story about a woman who becomes a Scheherazade from the fabled land of Atlantis, in her new life, weaving ancient stories into new life for her masters, with one difference, she knows what is going to happen, and when things gets difficult, she plays that card...carefully, and becomes a heroine, not without consequences!A fascinating, well-researched immersion into a far simpler world where a complex society of arranged marriages, slavery, politics and relationships keep women in their places, slaves at the whim of their owners mood, & love & morality is something else entirely.Rebecca East has told a rich, mature & satisfying story. I eagerly await her next book.Do catch my eInterview with Rebecca East.

Reviewed by Rebecca Brown (four teapots)