Curses and Smoke, by Vicky Alvear Shecter (book review) – love, class conflicts, Pompeii

book cover of Curses and Smoke by Vicky Alvear Shecter published by Arthur A LevineOld gods and older gods,
gladiators and slaves,
Pompeii is prosperous and proud…

Enjoy Curses and Smoke for its glimpses into the port city’s everyday life, its recounting of the weird phenomena observed prior to Vesuvius’ most famous eruption, its love story between owner and owned.

Forget not the past…

Book info: Curses and Smoke: a Novel of Pompeii. Vicky Alvear Shecter. Arthur A Levine Books, 2014.  [author site]  [publisher site] Review copy and cover image courtesy of the publisher.

My book talk: As handsome Tag returns to her father’s gladiator school at Pompeii, Lucia’s unease about her upcoming marriage to an old man and the recent loss of her mother are echoed by the earth’s tremors.

It was different when Lucia was a little girl roaming the hillsides and Tages was the medical slave’s small son at her side, before he was sent away to learn the healing arts in Rome, before her mother’s untimely death, before these sulfurous emanations near Vesuvius began.

As Lucia tries to break her betrothal to elderly Vitulius and Tag tries to cure his father’s failing memory, rich young Quintus arrives at the school to play at being a gladiator – with a hidden agenda.

Is there any way for Lucia to escape her dreaded marriage?
Can Tag ever end his captivity in the gladiator school?
Are the old Estruscan gods angry that Romans took their sacred grounds at Pompeii?
Why will no one listen to Lucia’s ideas about the strange things happening?

A richly detailed story of love, loss, and the human spirit fighting against the inevitable. (One of 6,000 books recommended on

What do you think?

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