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Household Gods by Judith Tarr
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Household Gods (original 1999; edition 2000)

by Judith Tarr, Harry Turtledove

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4652422,298 (3.66)23
Member:AddictedToMorphemes
Title:Household Gods
Authors:Judith Tarr
Other authors:Harry Turtledove
Info:Tor Fantasy (2000), Mass Market Paperback, 672 pages
Collections:Your library, Read but unowned
Rating:***
Tags:Read, Read in 2012, Time Travel and/or Reincarnation

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Household Gods by Judith Tarr (1999)

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Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
A very good, readable book that explores the dysfunction in both late 20th century Los Angeles and 6th Century BCE Roman Empire. The narrator, Nicole, is really rather quite annoying (I agree with another reviewer on that score) who is a successful lawyer passed over for a promotion, divorced and needing those child support checks, and two kids who vie for her attention. All well and normal and a life that many can relate to. When she decides that the sexism she encountered after her non-promotion, the headaches of driving through LA's traffic and smog are too much for her, and her life is just unmanageable, she prays to a small stone plaque with a bas-relief sculpture of Liber and Liberia and finds herself in the Roman outpost of Carnuntum on the Danube. Her perceptions change forever.

Both Tarr and Turtledove put some great research into the day-to-day life of a Roman citizen: the public baths, using olive oil instead of soap, the stench, the endless work that a tavern keeper must go through, the sadness of plague, the terror of invasion and rape, and finally the order that is restored. Nicole is in the body of one of her ancestors and must confront a slave who is owned by the tavern, family whom she does not even know who have bullied her her entire life long, and a dyer across the street who is her lover in her widowhood. Good plot, great details, and a good resolution at the end.

While I haven't read anything by Tarr, I have found Turtledove's tendency to belabor a point in a character's thoughts mind-numbingly unnecessary. In this book we hear all about Nicole's problems with her ex a whole lot less than I would have expected, and the repetitions are limited to when Nicole learns the point her experiences have taught her. For example, she was brought up in an alcoholic household, so drinking wine freaks her out. She switches the household to water, once, and learns why ancient cultures drank alcohol on a daily basis after a night spent over the chamber pot. Her kids come down with the runs, too. Once she resolves herself to drinking alcohol, her long-winded ruminations are kept to a slight plot-point, no more.

A very good book, recommended for readers who enjoy these authors and readers who want to learn more details about everyday Roman citizens. ( )
1 vote threadnsong | Jun 18, 2016 |
Nicole Gunther-Perrin, a California lawyer and divorced mother of two, thinks her life is rough, what with on-the-job sexual harassment, an ex- who's late with his child support, and bratty kids.
Somehow, she gets the pea-brained idea that life would have been better in the Roman Empire. Ah, for those simple, bucolic times!
With the help of an ancient plaque of a god & goddess that she picked up on her honeymoon, the teetotalling, prissy, christian, politically correct Nicole is zapped back to the 2nd century AD, into the body of a widowed tavern-keeper.

It doesn't take her long to learn that Roman times were not the haven of equality and justice that she imagined. Gradually, as she comes to adjust to the shock, filth, licentiousness, lack of health care, violence & etc... of ancient times, she also learns a lot about life, love, friendship and coping with difficulties.

It's a bit hard to believe how ignorant a well-educated modern character like Nicole is about the realities of life during Roman times, and I do disagree with a few of the authors "messages" - such as that children need corporal punishment to be disciplined (Kids aren't stupid. Explanations of WHY they shouldn't do something are liable to go a lot further than a smack.) But overall I found this to be a really entertaining read ( )
  AltheaAnn | Feb 9, 2016 |
I really liked this book and I'm not much of an adult fantasy reader. The main thing that struck me was that I was travelling to my husband's home village in Tibet while reading this, and found her time travelling "culture shock" was much mirroring my own as I left my comfortable American existance and entered into the (nearer) past. Depictions of chamber pots being dumped out the window into the alley coincided with our own carrying of the garbage and muck thrown out into the alleyway. When I started to read it on the plane I thought the main character was whiney, until I started living a similar experience. Coming to love the place warts and all was the same as well. ( )
1 vote thukpa | Feb 6, 2016 |
I really liked this book and I'm not much of an adult fantasy reader. The main thing that struck me was that I was travelling to my husband's home village in Tibet while reading this, and found her time travelling "culture shock" was much mirroring my own as I left my comfortable American existance and entered into the (nearer) past. Depictions of chamber pots being dumped out the window into the alley coincided with our own carrying of the garbage and muck thrown out into the alleyway. When I started to read it on the plane I thought the main character was whiney, until I started living a similar experience. Coming to love the place warts and all was the same as well. ( )
  thukpa | Feb 6, 2016 |
I really liked this book and I'm not much of an adult fantasy reader. The main thing that struck me was that I was travelling to my husband's home village in Tibet while reading this, and found her time travelling "culture shock" was much mirroring my own as I left my comfortable American existance and entered into the (nearer) past. Depictions of chamber pots being dumped out the window into the alley coincided with our own carrying of the garbage and muck thrown out into the alleyway. When I started to read it on the plane I thought the main character was whiney, until I started living a similar experience. Coming to love the place warts and all was the same as well. ( )
  thukpa | Feb 5, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 24 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Judith Tarrprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Turtledove, Harrymain authorall editionsconfirmed
von Buhler, CynthiaCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0812564669, Mass Market Paperback)

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

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:24:07 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

A modern woman is transported to a 2nd century Roman frontier town. Lawyer Nicole, a single mother frustrated by life in Los Angeles, awakens in the body of a widowed tavern keeper. On her return she appreciates modern life more.

(summary from another edition)

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