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Last Days of Pompeii [Paperback]

Edward Bulwer Lytton Lytton , Sir Edward Bulwer Lytton
1.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Nov. 1 1995 1564595900 978-1564595904 Facsimile edition
Reveals the famous last days of Pompeii in great detail. Interesting reading both for the mystic and the scholar.

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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars It blows April 18 2005
By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAME TOP 10 REVIEWER
Format:Paperback
Edward George Bulwer-Lytton is best known for coming up with the immortal phrase that Snoopy is always typing: "It was a dark and stormy night." Unfortunately, he's never that concise in "Last Days of Pompeii," a bloated and melodramatic historical novel full of Victorian cliches, and without a character who acts like a real person.

It focuses on the final days of the ancient Roman city of Pompeii, which was buried in a volcanic eruption in 79 A.D. In particular, it focuses on a virtuous young Roman man, Glaucus, who is stuck in a love quadrangle with a beautiful, equally virtuous young lady, a blind slave girl, and a sinister Egyptian who beguiles the virtuous young lady.

In the background is a turmoil of religious and social problems, with a deadly volcano smoldering behind it all. Then, a murder is committed -- and Glaucus is arrested for the crime, and sentenced to be sent into the arena. When Vesuvius blows, will any of them survive?

"The Last Days of Pompeii" is one of those novels that had immense promise. Unfortunately, Bulwer-Lytton turns it into a Roman soap opera. Rather than focusing on the more interesting aspects of Pompeii, Bulwer-Lytton decided to focus on a contrived web of very boring people.

It doesn't help that "Last Days of Pompeii" is also written in a chokingly dense style, very ornate and full of bad poetry. The dialogue is even worse, with lines like, "'With all his conceit and extravagance he is not so rich, I fancy, as he affects to be, and perhaps loves to save his amphorae better than his wit." Okay, whatever. The story might be more palatable, had Bulwer-Lytton not tried too hard to make the language stand out.
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Amazon.com: 3.6 out of 5 stars  18 reviews
28 of 28 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A thousand delicate tints Jan. 17 2001
By Rick Darby - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
If all you know about Sir Edward Bulwer-Lytton is the notorious opening sentence of another of his novels, "It was a dark and stormy night ...," and that this is supposed to imply that he wrote overblown purple prose -- I urge you to try The Last Days of Pompeii (first published in 1834). You may be surprised to find yourself in the hands of an expert storyteller and, yes, an often splendid stylist.
Bulwer-Lytton was one of the most popular fiction writers in the 19th century (and his reputation has really only waned in the last 60 years or so). Our ancestors weren't naive dupes; they rightly recognized that there was something exceptional about Last Days. If the book is now out of fashion, it nevertheless remains a fascinating read.
Briefly, the story concerns four people in Pompeii in the period leading up to the eruption of Mount Vesuvius that buried the city in ash in AD 79. They are Glaucus, a Greek-born, rich young man who is a bit of a rake (he gambles on the gladiatorial games) but fundamentally decent; Ione, his lover (in the author's words, "The wealth of her graces was inexhaustible -- she beautified the commonest action; a word, a look from her, seemed magic. Love her, and you entered into a new world, you passed from this trite and common-place earth"); Nydia, a blind slave girl passionately and uselessly in love with Glaucus; and Arbaces, a brilliantly malevolent high priest of the cult of Isis.
The reader, too, passes out of "this trite and common-place earth" in the book's pages. The style is of another time, to be sure, one that is unashamedly colorful and romantic. To some poor cynical souls I suppose it will seem corny; to those who still look at the stars and sunsets with awe, the language will resonate with a thousand delicate tints.
Last Days is not only an evocative re-imagination of a historical time and place, and a craftily plotted story; it also touches on deep philosophical matters. Bulwer-Lytton was interested in the Mystery cults of the Roman empire, including that of Isis. Although, probably to avoid offending the conventions of his time, he had Glaucus and Ione eventually convert to Christianity, it's hard to doubt that he was sympathetic to earlier pagan religions. Although Arbaces is the villain, his literary portrait is drawn with keen psychological insight and his religious rites are thoughtfully and strikingly portrayed. (The scene in which Arbaces tries to initiate Ione's brother into the secret -- highly sensuous and erotically tinged -- rituals of the cult is electrifying!) Mystical undertones are not far from the jewelled surface of this novel.
So read this as a period piece, but not in a condescending way; let yourself be drawn into the sun-glazed temples and forums, the loves, the cruelty and the jealousies of ancient Pompeii. See them through a dreamy, extravagant early-Victorian literary sensibility. Give yourself up to Bulwer-Lytton's magic, as so many did in generations before you.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating Historical Novel March 4 2001
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This historically accurate novel is filled with exceptional characters and an intriguing plot. Set in the days before the famous eruption of Mount Vesuvious, the novel highlights several stories at once, dealing with romance, adventure, and treachery. Edward Bulwer-Lytton did an excellent job in making the story deep and colorful. It is perfect for students studying Roman culture, as well as anyone looking for a good novel. This book is definitely a classic worth reading!
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Get yourself lost in this magical world Jan. 26 2001
By Guillermo Maynez - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
This is a romantic historical novel, with a convoluted and exciting romantic story of passion, hate, revenge, and adventure. So what? There are many books like that, most of them pretty cheap and predictable. The trick, of course, is the writing. Bulwer Lytton, an early Victorian character with his own peculiarities (he was very interested in the mystical cults of Rome) is an extraordinary storyteller. The plot, as I said, is long to summaryze, but it concerns Glauco, a Greek stud who is beloved by almost every woman in the story; Ione, the Naples girl he loves; Nadia, a blind slave who is -of course- in love with Glauco, and the excellently portrayed Arbaces, a priest of the cult of Isis, the Egyptian goddess. Two other interesting characters are Julia, a rich and mean heiress who is, alas, in love with Glauco, and Salustio, a dissipated and drunken Roman.
The plot revolves around the constant intrigues of the characters, which include magic love-potions, betrayals and heroism. But at the back of the action, there is a volcano about to explode and leave this town covered by tons of dust and volcanic rock. The characters are planning their lives and lusting for passion, without knowing that they have no future. Like some of us, maybe.
Summing up, this novel is great entertainment, intelligent fun. The best, in my opinion, is the re-creation of a lost world, a city full of color and passion, living in full while Destiny works its own way.
20 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fascinating, in-depth brushing away of the ash and lava Oct. 26 1998
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The novel's situation is always in the back of your mind, the reader always has the tingling nervousness that the volcano is going to explode any time. With this juxtaposition of a love story which is epic and purely inspiring in its purest form the novel is a great read and drags you through the Pompeiin's world. Bulwer excited me most in his description of Glaucus' and Julia's love for each other, it is the most purest and devotional of loves, they are epic figures in a landscape of treachery and shallowness and the reader strives for them to succeed. If you are interested in the Roman culture and its history, plus if you're a romantic at heart who wishes to be in the sun of Italia then read this book. Bulwer's poems sweeten the denseness of his archaic syntax and the Blind girl's song's strike a chord of lovely imagery, I'm still recovering form the read's epicness!
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Well worth reading Jan. 11 2002
By Schmerguls - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Though the description is overdone and the plot rather creaking, I was caught up by both the description and the story. Glaucus, an Athenian in Pompeii, loves Ione, as does Arbaces, an Egyptian of evil. Nydia, a blind slave, also loves Glaucus. Arbaces kills Apaecides, brother of Ione, who has become a Christian, and then blames the killing on Glaucus, who has become temporarily crazed by a supposed love potion given him by Nydia--after Nydia took it from Julia, who had gotten it from a witch at Arbaces' urging. To illustarte the fulsome style: "The eyes of the crowd folowed the gesture of the Egyptian, and beheld, with ineffable dismay, a vast vapour shooting from the summit of Vesuvius, in the form of a gigantic pine-tree, the trunk, blackness,--the branches, fire!--a fire, that shifted and wavered in its hues with every moment, now fiercely luminous, now of a dull and dying red, that again blazed terrifically forth with intolerable glare!" You will not soon forget this awesome book.
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