A.D. 62: Pompeii
by Rebecca East
A twenty-first century woman finds herself stranded in first century Rome and sold to a wealthy family as a house slave. This situation provides her with an intimate, Upstairs / Downstairs look at household life in the ancient world. She seeks freedom and love through storytelling; her stories win her love and respect from her Roman master - and hatred from jealous rivals.
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1. Why does Miranda feel so out of place in the modern world? What is she looking for at the beginning of her journey?
2. If you could escape to another time, or another place - what era, or what culture, would you choose? Why?
3. Early in the story, Demetrius becomes Miranda's informant and guide. Did their relationship develop in the way that you expected?
4. Why is the cutting off of Miranda's hair significant? How does this event help to establish her status in the household, and her relationships with other women in the household?
5. Miranda struggles with two issues in her relationship with Marcus: the slave/ master relationship involves intimacy, but it also involves an extreme inequality of power. How does she feel about this inequality? What other kinds of relationships involve inequalities of power along with intimacy? What relationship problems arise when there is an inequality of power?
6. Did you feel that this story ignored or minimized many of the problems of slavery? (Another time travel novel about slavery is Olivia Butler's "Kindred"; the heroine of that novel has much more painful experiences as a slave).
7. In many respects this novel is a "fairy tale for grownups", that is, it uses storytelling conventions that are familiar from childhood fairy tales. What features of this story reminded you of fairy tales?
8. There are numerous stories within this story. How does the story of Dick Whittington's Cat foreshadow events in Miranda's own life? What messages does Miranda try to convey when she tells her master the Hans Christian Anderson story of The Nightingale? The legend of the Selkies? Is Marcus always receptive to these messages? Could you think of other stories that might have served Miranda's purposes better, or perhaps guided events in different directions?
9. What thematic repetitions occur in the story? (For example, what types of rings are used throughout the story to symbolize different types of relationships? In what ways is Miranda a "daughter of Neptune"?)
10. In the end, did Miranda find what she was searching for? Is she ambivalent about her decision? Did the end of the story seem natural to you? Why or why not? What choice would you make, if you were in Miranda's situation?
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"An interesting, well-told story (think Upstairs, Downstairs crossed with I, Claudius) with a strong and intelligent heroine, A. D. 62: Pompeii draws the reader into a vividly imagined ancient world. Definitely recommended."
India Edghill, Historical Novel Society Review, April 2003
"A.D. 62: Pompeii is an engaging time-travel novel about a twenty-first century woman who is sent to first century Pompeii when a time travel experiment fails to work as planned. Adopted into a wealthy family as a house slave, Miranda manages to improve her lot through telling stories, yet the master's wife becomes jealous and plots vengeance against her. Superbly written, A.D. 62: Pompeii is a compelling and imaginative saga of romance, adaptation, and adventure."
Midwest Book Review, April 2003
"Rebecca East restores the ruins of Pompeii to vibrant color with a detailed immersion into the once prosperous, ancient Roman resort town and the private villas, elaborate gardens and markets, bath houses and political forums that stood before the catastrophic eruption of Vesuvius in 79 AD. …. the author has produced a compelling page-turner…. a must-read for those who wish to visit the real Pompeii."
Romantic Times, June 2003
"East creates a tender and charming interaction of Miranda and the other characters. She brings in scenes of courage, love, loyalty, selflessness, bravery and heroism. East's story would be interesting in any time period, but her placing the story in first-century Italy (with her knowledge of Roman history and archaeology) adds a charm that fascinates and educates. The reader gets an in-depth exposure to Roman life and customs."
Maurice Williams, www.thebestreviews.com