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Caroline Lawrence

The Roman Mysteries (Series, Book 2): The Secrets of Vesuvius

YEAR: 2001

COUNTRY: United Kingdom

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Title of the work

The Roman Mysteries (Series, Book 2): The Secrets of Vesuvius

Country of the First Edition

Country/countries of popularity

United Kingdom, France, Spain, Germany, United States, Finland, Italy, Czechoslovakia, Slovenia

Original Language

English

First Edition Date

2001

First Edition Details

Caroline Lawrence. The Secrets of Vesuvius. London: Orion Children’s books, 2001, pp. 224

ISBN

1842550802

Awards

In 2009 Lawrence won the Classical Association Prize for a significant contribution to the understanding of Classics.

Genre

Historical fiction
Novels

Target Audience

Children (9-12)

Cover

Missing cover

We are still trying to obtain permission for posting the original cover.


Author of the Entry:

Chloe Roberta Sadler, University of Roehampton, crs.sadler@icloud.com

Peer-reviewer of the Entry:

Susan Deacy, University of Roehampton, s.deacy@roehampton.ac.uk 

Lisa Maurice, Bar Ilan University, lisa.maurice@biu.ac.il 

Female portrait

Caroline Lawrence (Author)

Born in England, Lawrence grew up in the United States of America and studied Classics at Berkeley. She won a Marshall Scholarship to Cambridge and went on to study Classical art and Archaeology at Newnham College Cambridge. Lawrence studied for her MA in Hebrew and Jewish Studies at University College London and went on to teach Latin, French and art at a primary school in London. 

Lawrence published The Thieves of Ostia, the first instalment in the Roman Mysteries Series in 2001. Lawrence has also worked on University of Reading’s educational website Romans Revealed, which presents stories about Roman Britain related to archaeological finds. 


Bio prepared by Chloe Roberta Sadler, University of Roehampton, crs.sadler@icloud.com


Adaptations

Roman Mysteries, BBC United Kingdom, 2007 & 2008

Translation

Les secrets de Pompeii Amélie Sarn (French)

Los Secrets del Vesubio (Spanish)

Das Rätsel des Vesuv Dagmar Weischer (German)

Tajemný Vesuv : záhady ze starověkého Říma (Czech)

Skrivnosti Vezuva Maja Ropret (Slovenian)

Vesuviuksen Salaisuudet Pekka Tuomisto (Finnish)

Sequels, Prequels and Spin-offs

Prequels:

The Thieves of Ostia


Sequels:

The Pirates of Pompeii

The Assassins of Rome

The Dolphins of Laurentum

The Twelve Tasks of Flavia Gemina

The Enemies of Jupiter

The Gladiators from Capua

The Colossus of Rhodes

The Fugitive from Corinth

The Sirens of Surrentum

The Charioteer of Delphi

The Slave-girl from Jerusalem

The Beggar of Volubilis

The Scribes from Alexandria

The Prophet from Ephesus

The Man from Pomegranate Street


Mini-Mysteries:

Bread and Circuses

Trimalchio’s Feast and other mini mysteries

The Legionary from Londinium and other mini-mysteries


Companion Books:

The First Roman Mysteries Quiz Book

The Second Roman Mysteries Quiz Book

The Roman Mysteries Treasury

From Ostia to Alexandria with Flavia Gemina: Travels with Flavia Gemina

Summary

In this second volume in the Roman Mysteries Series, after the danger experienced by the children in The Thieves of Ostia, Flavius father decides to send Flavia and Nubia to his brother’s farm near Pompeii. He invites Lupus and Jonathan as well as Jonathan’s sister and father to join them. Whilst swimming one day, the children save the life of Pliny, and in thanks he gives them a riddle and sends them looking for a blacksmith named Vulcan. By solving the riddle the four friends discover that the blacksmith Vulcan is really the long-lost son of the people who own the villa next to Flavia’s uncle’s farm. Throughout the book Jonathan suffers from nightmares, as his father did whilst they were being persecuted as Christians before they managed to escape. It seems that Jonathan is being warned that Vesuvius will erupt. The four friends manage to escape from the worst of the volcano’s eruption but they do lose some of their other friends during the eruption, including Pliny.

Analysis

The second instalment of Lawrence’s Roman Mysteries series contains some similar kinds of facts to the first book. However, the information about Roman life is more focused than in The Thieves of Ostia. Where the first book reads like a discovery book for children about life in the ancient world, the second book focuses on Pliny and the myth of Vulcan. 

Lawrence includes details about food, transport and the arrangement of farms through the continued explanation of the surroundings to Nubia the African slave and Lupus the orphan who has lost his tongue. However, there are considerably fewer of these instances. Whilst Lawrence includes some information about mythology through the mention of Castor and Pollux in the first book as well as Cerberus, she goes into some detail on the myth of Vulcan in the second book, giving a closer look into how mythology functioned in Roman life. She retells much of the myth surrounding the god, from his birth, to being raised under the sea to his reinstatement to Olympus. Lawrence goes into the roles of the god, including connotations with fire and water and his role as the divine blacksmith. 

The mythology surrounding Vulcan is reflected in the blacksmith who the children meet, who has a club foot, and is referred to as Vulcan. He has also been raised by people who are not his true parents, and he is on a mission to discover who they are. This drawing of parallels between mythology and a character in the book might help encourage imaginative thinking in young readers, inviting them to think about what might happen to the boy as the story progresses in light of what they have learnt about the god of the same name. 

Lawrence creates an amusing and well-executed character in Pliny and weaves in historical facts with the story of Flavia and her friends. This kind of expansion upon historical facts may encourage young readers to undertake further reading on the historical figure of Pliny. By describing his death, she potentially provides motivation for independent learning on the matters as well as stimulus for class discussions not only about the historical figure of Pliny but about the creative writing technique of fictionalising historical characters. 


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Leaf pattern
Leaf pattern

Title of the work

The Roman Mysteries (Series, Book 2): The Secrets of Vesuvius

Country of the First Edition

Country/countries of popularity

United Kingdom, France, Spain, Germany, United States, Finland, Italy, Czechoslovakia, Slovenia

Original Language

English

First Edition Date

2001

First Edition Details

Caroline Lawrence. The Secrets of Vesuvius. London: Orion Children’s books, 2001, pp. 224

ISBN

1842550802

Awards

In 2009 Lawrence won the Classical Association Prize for a significant contribution to the understanding of Classics.

Genre

Historical fiction
Novels

Target Audience

Children (9-12)

Cover

Missing cover

We are still trying to obtain permission for posting the original cover.


Author of the Entry:

Chloe Roberta Sadler, University of Roehampton, crs.sadler@icloud.com

Peer-reviewer of the Entry:

Susan Deacy, University of Roehampton, s.deacy@roehampton.ac.uk 

Lisa Maurice, Bar Ilan University, lisa.maurice@biu.ac.il 

Female portrait

Caroline Lawrence (Author)

Born in England, Lawrence grew up in the United States of America and studied Classics at Berkeley. She won a Marshall Scholarship to Cambridge and went on to study Classical art and Archaeology at Newnham College Cambridge. Lawrence studied for her MA in Hebrew and Jewish Studies at University College London and went on to teach Latin, French and art at a primary school in London. 

Lawrence published The Thieves of Ostia, the first instalment in the Roman Mysteries Series in 2001. Lawrence has also worked on University of Reading’s educational website Romans Revealed, which presents stories about Roman Britain related to archaeological finds. 


Bio prepared by Chloe Roberta Sadler, University of Roehampton, crs.sadler@icloud.com


Adaptations

Roman Mysteries, BBC United Kingdom, 2007 & 2008

Translation

Les secrets de Pompeii Amélie Sarn (French)

Los Secrets del Vesubio (Spanish)

Das Rätsel des Vesuv Dagmar Weischer (German)

Tajemný Vesuv : záhady ze starověkého Říma (Czech)

Skrivnosti Vezuva Maja Ropret (Slovenian)

Vesuviuksen Salaisuudet Pekka Tuomisto (Finnish)

Sequels, Prequels and Spin-offs

Prequels:

The Thieves of Ostia


Sequels:

The Pirates of Pompeii

The Assassins of Rome

The Dolphins of Laurentum

The Twelve Tasks of Flavia Gemina

The Enemies of Jupiter

The Gladiators from Capua

The Colossus of Rhodes

The Fugitive from Corinth

The Sirens of Surrentum

The Charioteer of Delphi

The Slave-girl from Jerusalem

The Beggar of Volubilis

The Scribes from Alexandria

The Prophet from Ephesus

The Man from Pomegranate Street


Mini-Mysteries:

Bread and Circuses

Trimalchio’s Feast and other mini mysteries

The Legionary from Londinium and other mini-mysteries


Companion Books:

The First Roman Mysteries Quiz Book

The Second Roman Mysteries Quiz Book

The Roman Mysteries Treasury

From Ostia to Alexandria with Flavia Gemina: Travels with Flavia Gemina

Summary

In this second volume in the Roman Mysteries Series, after the danger experienced by the children in The Thieves of Ostia, Flavius father decides to send Flavia and Nubia to his brother’s farm near Pompeii. He invites Lupus and Jonathan as well as Jonathan’s sister and father to join them. Whilst swimming one day, the children save the life of Pliny, and in thanks he gives them a riddle and sends them looking for a blacksmith named Vulcan. By solving the riddle the four friends discover that the blacksmith Vulcan is really the long-lost son of the people who own the villa next to Flavia’s uncle’s farm. Throughout the book Jonathan suffers from nightmares, as his father did whilst they were being persecuted as Christians before they managed to escape. It seems that Jonathan is being warned that Vesuvius will erupt. The four friends manage to escape from the worst of the volcano’s eruption but they do lose some of their other friends during the eruption, including Pliny.

Analysis

The second instalment of Lawrence’s Roman Mysteries series contains some similar kinds of facts to the first book. However, the information about Roman life is more focused than in The Thieves of Ostia. Where the first book reads like a discovery book for children about life in the ancient world, the second book focuses on Pliny and the myth of Vulcan. 

Lawrence includes details about food, transport and the arrangement of farms through the continued explanation of the surroundings to Nubia the African slave and Lupus the orphan who has lost his tongue. However, there are considerably fewer of these instances. Whilst Lawrence includes some information about mythology through the mention of Castor and Pollux in the first book as well as Cerberus, she goes into some detail on the myth of Vulcan in the second book, giving a closer look into how mythology functioned in Roman life. She retells much of the myth surrounding the god, from his birth, to being raised under the sea to his reinstatement to Olympus. Lawrence goes into the roles of the god, including connotations with fire and water and his role as the divine blacksmith. 

The mythology surrounding Vulcan is reflected in the blacksmith who the children meet, who has a club foot, and is referred to as Vulcan. He has also been raised by people who are not his true parents, and he is on a mission to discover who they are. This drawing of parallels between mythology and a character in the book might help encourage imaginative thinking in young readers, inviting them to think about what might happen to the boy as the story progresses in light of what they have learnt about the god of the same name. 

Lawrence creates an amusing and well-executed character in Pliny and weaves in historical facts with the story of Flavia and her friends. This kind of expansion upon historical facts may encourage young readers to undertake further reading on the historical figure of Pliny. By describing his death, she potentially provides motivation for independent learning on the matters as well as stimulus for class discussions not only about the historical figure of Pliny but about the creative writing technique of fictionalising historical characters. 


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