The Christian Fiction Book Club meets every six weeks at different book blogs. This month we're discussing Pompeii by T.L. Higley. Feel free to come join the conversation by commenting here or linking to your own post!
To begin, here are my overall thoughts on the book:
Like Vesuvius, this book is powerful and should not be underestimated! The tension builds steadily, with short sections from the volcano's point of view that remind the reader that below the surface of political upheaval and emotional drama stirs a dangerous depth that will drastically shift priorities once it explodes upon the scene. When that explosion happens, everything changes.
Until then, different sorts of danger fill the pages--from an evil politician bent on continuing his unjust reign, to fears of inadequacy and failure, to intense gladiator fights. There's a lot to take in as a reader, and some of the events (both past and present) are heartbreaking and disturbing to read about. But through it all is an underlying message of hope and security through the Messiah even in the midst of all the evil and suffering of this life. The glimpses of community, acceptance, and love are very sweet indeed.
The love story between Cato and Ariella is also quite an interesting one! I can't help but compare Ariella (Ari) to the Disney character of Mulan. Escaping from a horrible life satisfying the lust of a perverse man, Ari disguises herself as a man and joins a group of gladiators. She is a fighter through and through, and her spirit and perseverance catch the eye of Cato, who is a prominent, albeit new, citizen of Pompeii with a heart for those under oppression. Their journey is a difficult but necessary one that ultimately demonstrates where real, lasting strength and stamina come from: the Lord.
And no section shows that truth more than the last part of the book, when Vesuvius finally fulfills her role. I admit to being rather fearful of volcanoes, especially since I saw the movie Dante's Peak when I was in middle school. Well, I made it through the conclusion of this book, and it is both gripping and moving! As I read it in the early morning hours, I ended up shedding a few tears.
Pompeii: City on Fire is not a light-hearted read, nor is it an easy one, but it is a powerful one that attests to God's control in all things and the beauty of faith amidst the darkest storm.*With thanks to the author for providing me with an Advanced Reader Edition of the book in exchange for my honest opinion.*
Note: Since this was an Advanced Reader Edition, some changes might have been made to the final edition which would not be taken into consideration in this review.
I chose two discussion questions to respond to, but feel free to respond to any of the ones on Higley's list, or share any random thoughts that come to mind!
Question: The end of the story involves some specific intervention by God, showing His power. Do you believe God still works in this way? If so, where have you seen or experienced it?
My Response: Yes! I believe God loves us, and because He loves us I believe He cares enough to be involved in our lives and not leave the world to its own devices. If He did leave the world alone, none of us would ever be able to have a relationship with God. Jesus' death and resurrection shows at least one case of God specifically "intervening" in human history to reach out to the people He created who couldn't escape from sin on their own. As for today, I believe He is still sovereign and still works miracles, big and small, like my very own Christmas miracle that I blogged about back in December. =)
However, I do have to say that I don't know if I like the term "intervention." Dictionary.com gives one definition as: "interposition or interference of one state in the affairs of another." Because God is Creator and Lord of all, I don't think he ever "interferes" in our lives, nor do I believe that He only intervenes at specific points in history. He is working His good and perfect will throughout time, and He's always here!
Question: The eruption of Vesuvius and the escape takes up much of the latter part of the book. How did you feel about the author’s treatment of this tragic historical event?
My Response: Higley has a gift for writing, in my opinion! As I mentioned in my review, I ended up crying a little bit when reading the ending--so I think her treatment of the event is a very moving and powerful one. Her descriptions definitely show the tragedy of the eruption and destruction, but throughout all of the suffering, she deftly weaves in hope.
And here's what's next on the schedule:
Next month the Christian Fiction Book Club will be discussing Digitalis by Ronie Kendig. As far as I know (correct me if I'm wrong, Joy!), a host hasn't been chosen yet for this discussion, which will be on Saturday, August 13th.
Please join the discussion! If you read Pompeii and want to share your thoughts, go ahead and leave a comment on this post!