The Really Popular Book Club: Pompeii with Caroline Shenton

The Really Popular Book Club: Pompeii with Caroline Shenton

The Really Popular Book Club: Pompeii with Caroline Shenton
Thursday 18 November 2021, 7.00pm to 8.00pm GMT
Past event
Past event
Thursday 18 November 2021, 7.00pm to 8.00pm GMT
  • The Really Popular Book Club logo
Open to: 
Public (open to all)
Zoom | View details

The Really Popular Book Club is the reading group hosted by Cambridge University Libraries. Everyone is invited to join them and their special guests to discuss a really popular book, one that we all know and perhaps or perhaps not love.

This November the Club will be discussing Robert Harris’s international best-seller Pompeii, a thriller set in the days leading up to the destruction of the city by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in AD79. The story begins with the hydraulic engineer Marcus Attilius sent from Rome to the Bay of Naples to investigate the mysterious disappearance of his predecessor (the man in charge of the underground aqueduct supplying the towns around the Bay of Naples) who has vanished without trace. As Attilius arrives, there’s a second mystery bubbling up, namely why the water supply round the Bay has begun to fail, and as he begins to discover why, he is gradually sucked into a world of excess, corruption and mortal danger.

The special guest for the evening will be Dr Caroline Shenton, formerly Director of the Parliamentary Archives and now Secretary to Council at Girton College. Caroline’s first popular history book The Day Parliament Burned Down (OUP, 2012) was shortlisted for the Longman-History Today prize, and won the Political Book of the Year Award in 2013.

About Pompeii, Caroline says: ‘As an archivist there’s nothing I like better than a good historical thriller and Robert Harris is an absolute master of the genre. What’s so appealing to me is not only the evocation of a particular place and time, but also Harris’ ability to ramp up and then maintain a state of gripping suspense even though you know that nothing is going to stop Vesuvius from erupting’. 

As well as hearing from Caroline about her thoughts and observations on Pompeii, the floor will once again be opening up to you, the club members, to share your own observations and remarks. To get you thinking and to help prepare any comments or questions you might want to share, we have prepared three starter questions:

  1. Who is the main villain/antagonist in Pompeii?
  2. Harris had originally intended this, his second novel, to be a thriller about political corruption in present-day east-coast America. What remnants of that initial concept, if any, survive in Pompeii?
  3. How does Harris manage explain the phenomena of the lead-up to a massive volcanic explosion through the various responses of characters without our present-day scientific knowledge and for whom such signs were entirely novel?

Further information about The Really Popular Book Club, including our FAQs, can be found here.

Booking information

Booking for this event is now closed.


United Kingdom