The Last Girls of Pompeii
The Last Girls of Pompeii is set, as the title implies, in 79 AD, during the final days of the ill-fated Roman city. Julia is the privileged youngest daughter of a wealthy and influential patrician family, yet her deformity – a withered arm – means she is at best an embarrassment, at worst, cursed by the gods. Her best friend, Sura, in contrast, is beautiful and confident – and also her personal slave. However, their discovery of the terrible plans that Julia’s parents have for both of them brings home the point that no young woman in Roman society is truly free. And in the background, Vesuvius, waking from centuries of sleep, is about to teach every citizen of Pompeii that no one is master of his or her fate.
Lasky’s choice of subject for the period is original, though the fact of Julia’s deformity is at times overplayed. The life and culture of Pompeii are recreated in detail; she manages to take us through almost every aspect of daily life in the course of the novel without her descriptions seeming overly contrived. The complex relationship between mistress and slave is also particularly well elucidated.
The conclusion to the novel moved a little too swiftly, and I felt that at least some of the characters deserved the possible happier endings implied by the storyline. However, it was a hit in my house; my daughter, whose review is below, read it through twice in one go. The novel’s historical accuracy would make it an entertaining supplement to a classical or history curriculum.
For advanced readers aged 10-11, and young adults. Parents of younger readers should be advised that it contains a few references to sexuality.
The Last Girls of Pompeii is a very good book. It told me many things I did not know about the Roman culture. I have read other novels set in the Roman times, and this was by far the easiest to understand. Julia is my favorite character because she is strong and determined. I would certainly recommend this book for people interested in reading Roman novels.
Magdalen Dobson, age 10