- Mass Market Paperback: 672 pages
- Publisher: Tor Fantasy (July 15, 2000)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0812564669
- ISBN-13: 978-0812564662
- Product Dimensions: 4.3 x 1.4 x 6.7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 10.4 ounces
- Average Customer Review: 112 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #335,189 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Household Gods Mass Market Paperback – July 15, 2000
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The standard time-travel plot turns on what might be changed by the futuristic know-how of an intrepid time traveler--typically a mechanically-minded man who "invents" modern weapons, medical technology, and so on. In Household Gods, Tarr and Turtledove make their time traveler a 1990s Los Angeles lawyer with no special technical or historical knowledge.
Nicole Gunther-Perrin is a single mother of two. Today her daycare provider's quitting. At the office, her male colleague has made partner and she hasn't. The kids get sick, the microwave dies, and her ex goes on vacation with his girlfriend. Staring at a votive plaque of Liber and Libera, Roman household gods, Nicole falls asleep wishing she lived in the past, surely a better and easier time. She awakens in second-century Carnuntum, a town near the Roman Empire's borders. Death, disease, and dirt are commonplace. Slavery and corporal punishment are facts of life, and war, pillage, and rape are constant threats. Mere survival is hard work. Though Nicole adapts and even enjoys some of her experience, she longs to return to her own time. The problems she left behind no longer seem unconquerable.
Tarr and Turtledove know their history and bring the reader into a past as vividly real as Nicole's Los Angeles. They create genuine, sympathetic characters whose thoughts and feelings are true to their era and deliver a satisfying conclusion. Household Gods should be on the shelf next to L. Sprague de Camp's Lest Darkness Fall and John Maddox Roberts's SPQR mysteries. --Nona Vero --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
Historical fantasists Tarr and Turtledove rework The Wizard of Oz in this absorbing new collaboration. Nicole Gunther-Perrin, their L.A. '90s version of Dorothy, is a 30-ish attorney trapped in a single mom's nightmare. Her well-to-do, deadbeat ex-husband is frolicking with a bosomy blonde. Her baby-sitter abruptly decides to move back to Mexico. A youngerAmale!Acolleague gets the partnership she's been thirsting after. The kids throw up in the car. The microwave gives up the ghost... and Nicole, praying for a simpler life, collapses. She wakes up in the body of a widowed tavernkeeper in 2nd-century Carnuntum, a Danube-side outpost of the Roman Empire. Life is simplerAbut even more miserable: battling filth, lice, lead poisoning, dysentery, plague, starvation and barbarians, Nicole learns that the mangy lions in Carnuntum's arena eat real people, and she is raped by one of the armor-clattering Roman soldiers who beat back the ravaging Germans. Then Titus Calidius Severus, a reeking workman with a tender, generous heart, thaws Nicole's brittle spirit and helps her share the basic happiness that keeps the everyday Romans around her going. Nicole also abandons some of her liberal sacred cows for solid Roman common sense: a swat on the bottom, she learns, does wonders for pre-teen rebellion that futile attempts at reasoning cannot. Once Nicole whirls back to present-day Los Angeles, she's more grown-up, far better able to cope with her life because she now understands the people around her and cares about them more. Drawing on a wealth of fascinating historical material and fleshing it out with snappy dialogue, superb characterizations and a genuinely appealing heroine, Tarr and Turtledove genially prove how much fun it can be to go back to OzAand even better, that there's no place like home. (Sept.)
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
The story is a little slow to develop, with an extended introduction of the main protagonist in modern times, which is then mirrored on the backside of the book with an extended epilogue detailing events following her return to 20th century life. However, sandwiched between the modern times introduction and wrap-up, the story provides much of what many of us are looking for in a book like this - what would daily life have looked like for an average person living in the classical period of western civilization. Since the main character is coming at her circumstance from the perspective of someone who has enjoyed the luxuries of modern life, the writers have a built-in mechanism to compare and contrast the differences between ancient and modern times through our ability to see into the mind of the main character. This is nicely done and cleverly executed.
The historical events in the book, and many of the story elements incorporated therein, appear to have been well researched, and at least much of it is based upon verifiable reality. Some of the extensive research will go unnoticed by the casual reader. A couple of good examples include:
First, the price of the wine served in the restaurant/tavern is based upon actual graffiti scratched onto a barroom wall and discovered during excavations in Pompeii - "You can get a drink here for only one coin. You can drink better wine for two coins. You can drink Falernian for four coins."
Second, Titus Calidius Severus, the retired legionnaire who is the main character's neighbor and lover, is based on a real person whose tombstone was unearthed in the real city of Carnuntum.
As inscribed (in Latin), the tombstone reads: T(itus) Calidius / P(ublii filius) Cam(ilia tribu) Sever(us)/ eq(ues) item optio/ decur(io) coh(ortis) I Alpin(orum) / item (centurio) leg(ionis) XV Apoll(inaris) / annnor(um) LVIII stip(endorium) XXXIIII / h(ic) s(itus) e(st) / Q(uintus) Calidius fratri / posuit
Translated into English, the tombstone reads: Titus Calidius Severus, son of Publius, of the Camilia (voting) Tribe , an eques, then optio and decurion of the Cohors 1 Alpinorum, and then centurion of the Legion XV Apollinaris. Aged 58 years, served 34 years died, he lies here. Quintus Calidius his brother put this up.
For those of you who find the main character Nicole to be impossibly and hopelessly annoying, I say get over it. It's just a story, and some people are, in fact, impossibly and hopelessly annoying. We do get to watch her evolve emotionally and psychologically over the course of the book, and I don't find any of this evolution to be outside the realm of possibility.
If you are a fan of classical history, and the Roman Empire specifically, I recommend you read this book. It's not fiction of the highest literary order, but it isn't meant to be. It's a fun and educational look at what life may have been like 1,800 years ago, as lived by the ancestors of our western civilization.
I read this 600+ page book quickly because the authors did an amazing job of vividly portraying daily life in an ancient city. I didn't find the main character all that interesting until she became immersed in Umma's life, though. I could understand a lot of her ignorance about how people lived 1800 years ago, so that didn't bother me for the most part. The one exception to that was her assuming that in ancient times, women had equality with men. It just seems like anyone with even the most casual understanding of world history would know that women lacked all sorts of basic human rights in the past. I mean, women couldn't even vote in THE UNITED STATES until 1920. It also didn't ring true to me that Nicole would instantly get over the trauma of her violent rape once she was back in her own body.
However, I did really get caught up in the story. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who loves historical fiction and fantasy. I also appreciated how the authors chose to set the story in a Roman frontier town rather than in the heart of the Empire. There are already so many novels about ancient Rome, but most of them ignore the outskirts.
I'm also really curious as to what happened to Umma!
The main character is a self-centered lawyer, Nicole, who is not at all likeable. The beginning of the book establishes her as the poster child for a woman having a bad day, after which she makes the mistake of wishing for "the good old days" of ancient Rome as she looks at a votive plaque on her nightstand. The god and goddess depicted thereon take it upon themselves to grant her that wish.
Nicole wakes to find herself in the body of her distant ancestor, Umma. The descriptions of this world and the people who live in it are what drew me in so completely. This was a world where Family mattered, because it was likely that they were the only ones who could help you out in a crisis. Death was familiar; cleanliness unknown.
I never did grow to like Nicole, even though she grew less self-absorbed toward the end of the book. Her character seemed somewhat detached throughout, as though she were looking at her own life as a case study. She showed no great emotion at the deaths of friends or family. Still, I found the lessons that she learned interesting.
This is a great rainy weekend book. At 600+ pages, it isn't a short read, but it is quick and easy. In short, a fun and historically accurate book.