Genre Historical Fiction Literary Fiction Reviews

A Life in the Age of Pompeii by Charline Ratcliff

17 September 2019
A Life in the Age of Pompeii Book Cover A Life in the Age of Pompeii
Charline Ratcliff
September 2, 2018

Much of the world is aware of the tragedy that befell Pompeii in 79 AD. An eyewitness report details the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in letters from Pliny the Younger to the historian Tacitus. Even with this recounting set to paper, Pompeii faded out of history to become little more than myth.In the late 16th century, Pompeii's ruins, and those of her sister city, Herculaneum, were discovered by architect Domenico Fontana. Pompeii finally reappeared as more than mere legend. The horror of seeing her citizens frozen in time, struggling against their demise, has shocked and amazed the world ever since.Years have passed and some of us are lucky enough to be able walk within the city's walls to uncover her history. The surrounding region, which holds Pompeii firmly in its embrace, is still volatile. Vesuvius slumbers, looking peaceful, yet anyone who ever has walked Pompeii's streets understands the devastation that will rain down should it awaken again.This past year has been quiet. However, several weeks ago, Pompeii experienced a severe quake. Afterward, my fellow archaeologists and I were surprised to find that the only damage was centered in a remote section of the city's northwestern region. We discovered a new chasm and entered a large, heretofore unknown, subterranean chamber. Detailed exploration suggested that we were in a storeroom belonging to an affluent city councilman. This hypothesis was later supported when we discovered the remains of a young woman along with a written account of her life.There is some eeriness in the finding of this chamber. The superstitious among us wonder if the woman's spirit remained trapped within this cavern until it finally managed to break free, causing the quake to pinpoint this location.However it happened, wherever she is now; this is her story. Will you listen?

Imagine a moment in your life when you feel that someone did something wonderful for you, and your life changed for the better. Can you do it? It’s not an easy thing to ask someone to search back into their mind to do. If you did figure out such a time, have you been grateful to the individual who helped you? Did you do something nice and let them know how much their gesture meant to you?

Today’s review is a story about a girl who is assisted through her life by someone and the effects of the influence through the girl’s life. The setting of the novel in the days of Ancient Rome and specifically Pompeii, we the readers are taken on a journey of love, desire, and faith. We also have an insight on faith in religion but also gratitude to mentors and those who help you as you age.

I want to thank Charline Ratcliff for asking me to review her book for her to start. I picked this up on Kindle Unlimited, and I am so happy that I did. I did not get a free copy or anything like that, but I am glad Charline asked me to review it.

My first impressions of “A Life in the Age of Pompeii” was great. I became interested in the idea of what had caused a person to be reflecting on their life after what no doubt everyone knew was coming. The setting of Pompeii is like setting a book on the Titanic. We all know what is happening, but we want to read what the writer does with the canvas. Charline does beautiful things with this canvas. She took such a clear idea of the destruction of Pompeii and turned it into a symphony of regret but also enlightenment.

I want to go into a couple of critiques here for “A Life in the Age of Pompeii” and to start, I’m going into one small thing that broke me out of emersion for a moment. This critique comes from the category of “Lost in Translation,” and I think the reason that I was confused was that this is about specific mythology and I’m no expert on the topic. We get to Ancient Egypt, and I became lost and had to start looking up the mythos. I had no idea there was a mother deity, and I didn’t quite understand what some of the explanation was. So I had to do some Googling here, and once I did, I felt a lot better. Specifically, what was throwing me way off was the explanations about how Isis and the fight with Set worked in the mythology, and I was just lost. After I did the research, I am more clear on the subject. However, I’m hitting the category because I felt compelled to look it up as this bit of mythology was more confusing to me than the Roman mythology explanations in the story. I’m not sure why I know that it threw me off.

My next tiny critique falls into the “Whole Story” category. Specifically, there is a prophecy that a Goddess gives to the main character about who is going to find her spirit later. Admittedly, it’s tricky to follow along with what happens due to the first party writing point of view. How does a writer work on the manuscript in the first person when it should be found later, and give the audience a satisfying ending with a payoff?

I’ve seen some writers in the past create a prologue to show the future character discover something, or an epilogue to tie that piece, but that didn’t happen here. Not that it’s a bad thing to avoid a prologue or epilogue, but it was a story element that wasn’t carried through, and thus I am pointing it out.

Let me now go into the things I truly loved about “A Life in the Age of Pompeii” and to start; I want to go to the category “Story Structure, Foundation, and Presentation.” The writing and editing are done on “Life” was beautiful. The text is easy to read, and grammar and spelling are exceptional, along with the margin work. There were no indents that bent my vision or caused any eye pain. I read this on Kindle on default settings, and it’s gorgeous. I couldn’t be more happy with how well the story and spot editing were.

Next, going into the “Cliche Much” category, I want to rave about the lack of cliche gods and goddesses that I’ve seen at times in other books. I loved the dynamics of the mythos and the history telling mixed with the fiction of the story. Venus was terrific, and very few times have I seen her given such life. I did understand her motivations, and I had a clear idea of why she was feeling the way she was early one. Next, concerning Vulcan, I could feel his rage and his reasoning. He wasn’t mentioned often, but he wasn’t some cliche NPC background character used as fodder to me. I understood why things happened the way they did. Granted, I had to look up some of the Egyptian stuff. I found the portrayal of the character of Set as carefully done as Isis or Venus and was not a cliche villain.

Next, under the category of “Story Structure, Foundation, and Presentation,” my favorite thing about this story is the structure. The exceptional pacing is glorious as well as mostly linear. Though we get little ideas of what is going on out of sequence, readers can delight in how exposition falls well-placed ways. I enjoyed all of that. I loved the nuggets of understanding that I got and I found the most exciting piece to be the tension in several sections of the manuscript accented the pacing.

Lastly, in the “Story Structure, Foundation, and Presentation” category, in the Foundation section of setup and payoff, the overall gratitude morale is excellent. Gratitude is so important. I feel it’s becoming lost among the world, and we need it back. Reading books like this about real-world consequences over ingratitude is terrific. Such books put a spotlight on the effects of ingratitude to all involved. I hope others take that message from the book, and think about all of the little things in their lives and thank anyone who is part of it.

Overall this is a great book, and if you love Ancient Roman tales, and lost manuscript books, this would be a good one to pick up. I think this is more a story about how a person should be grateful over what they have because of help. It’s wise to consider others rather than assume life is going to happen because it always does.


My score for “A Life in the Age of Pompeii” is a 90/100 which is a five-star review on Goodreads and Amazon. Pick this up the next time you want to read something unique and different.

Peter Donnelly

Founder of The Reading Desk, supporting readers, authors, publishers and book industry. Top Reviewer on Amazon, Goodreads, and NetGalley

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