Friday, December 17, 2010
Another Good Read by Carol Goodman
Since I enjoyed Carol Goodman's The Drowning Tree so much, I borrowed The Night Villa from our library. Although I didn't like this one quite as much as The Drowning Tree, it is a good read to warm you up on cold evenings.
The eruption of Mount Vesuvius in A.D. 79 which buried Pompeii is the major focus of this story. Our heroine Dr. Sophie Chase is a classics professor at the University of Texas who agrees to go along on a project involving the excavation of a villa in Herculaneum. The people involved stay in a copy of that villa which the wealthy man who is heading up the project had built on the Isle of Capri. Chase has been researching a slave girl called Iusta who grew up at the villa at Herculaneum, a girl who was free because her mother had been freed before Iusta was born. After her mother's death, however, the wicked woman who owned the villa had gone to court claiming Iusta was born afterward and was therefore still her slave. It's quite a story; your heart breaks for Iusta.
There are rumored to be scrolls hidden in the villa that many people are interested in, enough to kill for them. Chase finds herself in a position where she doesn't know who to trust. Even though she is aware of being in danger, she can't do much about it because she mistrusts nearly everyone. She's also vulnerable because she is recovering from a gunshot that damaged her lungs badly. The shooting happens at the beginning of the book.
Goodman writes about classic literature, GrecoRoman history, and poetry so her books are fascinating and you can be sure are accurate. In this one, though, she has hit on one of my pet peeves. Chase is a woman who has been treated badly by two men, one of whom she was deeply in love with. Rather than just moving on and getting over her abandonment by him, she obsesses about him and continues to expect him to show up again. It seems like she thinks about him constantly, and her work is suffering as well. Okay, I know about such things but I have no patience with an intelligent, independent woman who wallows in her misery.
That's my only reason for not liking this book as much as The Drowning Tree though, and so I recommend it for anyone who likes a novel with a tantalizing mystery, intriguing characters with questionable motives, and an exotic setting. You just might have a lot more patience with Dr. Chase than I did; I cheered for her despite my impatience after all.
My copy came from the library and had some interesting information about Goodman at the end. However, you can buy it from Amazon.com or B&N.com and I will receive a little commission.