Nobody knew that something terrible was going to happen – Pompeii


Tonight La Serpiente was adamant that I read her Pompeii, a chapter book for small children that is inexplicably one of her favourites. She first started reading it around the time that her sister was born, and it’s remained in her top ten ever since, even against the onslaught of glamourous alternatives from the library.

The first chapter is one of the best, as it includes the chance for interaction. Pompeii [say POM-pay] is one way to elicit a response, as is the guidance on how to pronounce Vesuvius. But that’s not what she likes the most.

No, it’s not the uncritical mentioning of an economy based on wholesale slavery that she likes.

No, it’s not the undisguised homoerotic subtext when there’s a visit to the local bathhouse, with all the weightlifting, oil-rubbing and horseplay in the pool that entails.

It’s the repetition she likes, I think. The constant repetition of the phrase "Nobody knew that something terrible was going to happen". Whether it’s people bringing produce in to sell at the market, or worshipping graven idols, or getting an all-over oil massage from a slave while other men stare out you, the populace of Pompeii (say POM-pay) were in ignorance of their impending doom.

Tonight, feeling lazy, I only read her the first chapter. We didn’t get as far as Pliny (say "Pliny") lik we usually do, because she was suffering the after effects of an ice-cream high, and I had to charge back to the office to spend another hour shouting at spreadsheets, and because she wanted to read RIchard Scarry’s "Watch Out Mr Rabbit!" in which a rabbit fails to notice some damp concrete because he’s too busy reading the newspaper. (That also aggravates me, with the implication that literacy leads to inattention and getting stuck in building sites, but I’m struggling to explain the problems about this to my eldest.). So, all in all, a positive experience for everyone involved.

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