A.D. 62: POMPEII
Rebecca East


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iUniverse, 2003
Reviewed by Joy Calderwood

Time Travel

Miranda is a mousy, self-effacing Harvard scholar. She seems to live in the world of ancient Rome, more than in the present, which she finds unbearably chaotic. When researchers need a test subject for their new time travel technology, Miranda is as glad to try it as they are to have her. She is told to spend a little time quietly observing city life in ancient Italy, then press a button implanted in her skin and be pulled back.

Not only is the machine’s aim poor, the recall button doesn’t work. Miranda is rescued from the ocean by sailors who sell her as a slave. Her small, underdeveloped frame earns the educated Miranda only the most menial of jobs in the Pompeii household of her new owners. Miranda speaks the Roman language as it is guessed at by modern scholars, not the true language of the time, so it is a while before she can begin to show her worth. Making it even more difficult to adapt, she finds it impossible to pretend the attitudes of a slave.

Miranda was lucky to be chosen by a kind household, but even so, she would not have survived if she had not caught the attention of the master, Marcus Tullius. The mistress, Holconia, is jealously wary of her, a fellow slave Stronnius wants to rape her, and the old butler Alexander resents her when she rejects of his offer of a regularized union with him. Finally she finds her niche in the household, playing music, telling stories, and making the occasional "prophecy".

Author Rebecca East has put a great deal of thought into deciding what someone (most likely East herself) would do in this situation. The flow of Miranda’s experiences seems very natural. I pretty much agree with her: this probably is what would happen in the circumstances – minus the fairy tale ending.

Rebecca East is an archaeologist and professor, with a professor’s love of imparting knowledge. Her website at http://www.rebecca-east.com includes hints from her own experiences on how to get around in Pompeii, both the modern sections and the archaeological digs. In A.D. 62: POMPEII, East has accomplished the feat of including great stores of information about the time period without losing the story’s appeal. It is true that some of the descriptions of the house and city, obviously drawn directly from the ruins, can get a bit over-detailed; there were places where my reading got pretty skimmy. What keeps up the momentum of A.D. 62: POMPEII is the believability of the ways in which Miranda adapts to her new time. This is a story for people who like to learn. It is also quite human.

Feb 2004 Review

 

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