|Girl Book Cover
COMING SEPTEMBER, 2017!
The Forever Girl
A Novel of Imperial Rome
By Mike Bonner
volcano Vesuvius erupted nineteen centuries ago, it buried the Italian towns of Pompeii and Herculaneum under as much as sixty
feet of steaming debris. The popular imagination has long been fascinated by this dramatic event, depicted in books from Edward
Bulwer Lytton’s classic The Last Days of Pompeii to the more recent Pompeii, by Robert Harris.
But never has there been a more unsparing or authentic novel of the destruction of the ancient cities than The Forever Girl.
The story begins in the winter of the year 72 C. E., when a young girl is taken into captivity after her Rhine River village
is overrun by Roman legionaries and their allies.
Her name is Kara.
Within the space of a
few months, she goes from cherished daughter of loving parents to an orphaned and exploited Roman slave. At the age of eight,
she is cast adrift in a culture that has little regard for human life, especially slave life.
sold from the slave pens in the shadow of the unfinished Colosseum in Rome, Kara and the other survivors of her tribe are
displayed in a triumphal procession for the victorious general, Petilius Cerialis.
One asset, Kara's mane
of beautiful golden hair, keeps her alive because of its value in producing the blond wigs favored by fashionable Roman women.
She is purchased by Agrippina, the wife of Senator Titus Clodius Eprius Marcellus for precisely this purpose.
The Marcellus family divides its time between Rome and the magnificent estate it maintains near Herculaneum, known as the
"House of Books," for the vast library of papyrus scrolls it boasts.
Along with the story of Kara, the novel
follows the life of a Roman soldier who participated in the destruction of her tribe. This is Maximus Publius, a weary legionary
whose existence is a rough and tumble of warfare against endless barbarian enemies.
Besides these two principals,
a varied cast of characters populates the novel, from the emperor Vespasian to Tlarous, a gemcutter's son, who is dying from
muscular dystrophy. From her friend Cletus, Kara learns of the new Christian faith, promising a path to salvation.
Another key character is Anicius, a slave who murders his master when he is denied the freedom that was promised him, setting
off a chain of tragedies.
There is the gifted young writer Tacitus, who struggles to make a difference, in
the literature and politics of his age. On the bay of Neapolis, the tormented former slave Aurelius tries to come to terms
with a shameful past. In the forum of Herculaneum, the drunken fortune teller Paccia is a familiar figure, as is the ambitious
magistrate, Lepidus Salvus.
There are bakers, musicians, vendors, tradesmen, laborers, and ordinary citizens.
At the summit of Roman society is the visionary Senator Marcellus, his privileged wife Agrippina, and their spoiled daughter,
Towering over all is immortal Vesuvius, serenely unconcerned with the frantic, haunted lives of the
human beings at her base.
For many Romans, life is not only difficult, it is also viciously cruel and squalid.
Down the backstreets dwells Antonia, the brothelkeeper, who keeps a secret known only to herself and the man she loves. Meanwhile,
being sold to Antonia is the fear of every pretty slave girl, including Kara.
As she grows older, Kara is
charged with attending her wealthy Roman family's prized grandson and heir, Justus. Because she loves the babe, Kara is happy
and filled with pleasure in performing this duty. This wins her the love of Marcus, the child's father, but also the hatred
of Agrippina, who schemes to consign Kara to the brothel.
On the day the fateful eruption occurs, it is the
infant Justus that Kara risks her life to protect.