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Household Gods by Judith Tarr

Household Gods (original 1999; edition 2000)

by Judith Tarr, Harry Turtledove

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4511923,135 (3.64)23
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
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 19 (next | show all)
Time-travel is not something I'd read by choice but I'm so very desperate for novels set in Rome I haven't read I picked this one up. Delightful and quick read--most of it taking place in the Pannonia of Marcus Aurelius' time--but for a beginning and ending telling how the heroine got to and from the city of Carnuntus, which I found out actually existed, as well as the main male character, the fuller/dyer [in the story] Titus Calidius Severus, historically a former Roman soldier stationed in that area with Legion XV. We know him by a funerary monument; I commend whoever invented a personality for him and used him in a story.

Nicole is a lady lawyer, a divorced, single mother of two preschoolers. She has a terrible day--an understatement. She's been passed over for partnership in her law firm and her child care worker has quit on the same day. From her honeymoon in Austria, land of some of her ancestors, she has a souvenir kept by her bedside: a plaque of a god and goddess. Frustrated, angry, overwhelmed, she offers a facetious prayer that they take her to their world, somewhere "not so...artificial, not so hateful."

The main thrust of the novel is how a 20th century woman--fully aware of male chauvinism, modern society and all its amenities and comforts--copes with a society so different. It's dirty, unhygienic, smelly, primitive but peoples' personalities after millennia haven't changed. She goes to sleep in modern L.A., awakes in this garrison town in the body of her ancestress, a widowed tavern keeper and single mother of two. The deities have given her a bonus: ability to speak, understand, read and write Latin. We witness her comparisons of everything in the 2nd century A.D. with modern times. We see Nicole first as an obnoxious, arrogant, self-righteous know-it-all but her experiences with this simpler time--lice [ugh], mores, war, deadly pestilence [probably measles], rape, AND a romance with the aforementioned Titus--cause her to reflect, empathize, and to change her attitude, once she returns to the present.

The book was somewhat dated with references to popular culture of when it was written: 1999. And it was probably average for its genre, but I did get the lesson, the old saw, "Be careful what you wish for, you may get it". It's a book I won't soon forget. Recommended. ( )
  janerawoof | Aug 14, 2015 |
I found this time travel tale to be a bit disappointing. It's the story of Nicole Gunther-Perrin, a single mom living and working in L.A., who unknowingly makes a wish to the Roman gods Liber and Libera. The gods grant her desire to live back in the simpler days of ancient Rome and she awakens in the body of Umma, a single mom living and working in Carnuntum, a Roman frontier town by the Danube River. Of course, there's culture shock and, of course, the reader gets a history lesson about everyday life in ancient times. The weakness of the book is that there's more of that than there is a story.

The tale starts with a very bad day in 1990's L.A.. After a few pages of well crafted detail, the tsuris goes over the top. Nicole makes her wish and then wakes up to discover the Second Century. She seems to go through every experience on could imagine--the bad hygiene, life without modern technology, gender inequality, slavery, pestilence, famine, and barbarian invasion. There's no real progression of plot or character, save that Nicole realizes that the 20th Century wasn't so bad a place to live after all. Now if the characters were more appealing, I might have been willing to forgive that. But Nicole is rather uninspiring. I might have even liked the book better if she had been killed off earlier and the supporting characters took over the tale.
--J. ( )
  Hamburgerclan | Nov 23, 2014 |
It took me a long time to get into this one, but once I did, I enjoyed it. The protaganist is a type of person all to real and to distasteful to me (i.e., a certain stereotype overachieving yet uncontemplative modern american woman)... That said, once I felt like the story really got going and the character started to engage and not just react with her world--it became very interesting. Oddly, the book has left me feeling both somewhat justified in my distaste for the stereotype, and also more sympathetic to it.

NOTE: Borrowed from the Anne Arundel County Library

(2014 Review #16)
  bohannon | Sep 23, 2014 |
It was interesting as any other life reconstructed from Archaeology and dealing with the minutiae of Single parenthood in the Danubian Provinces of the high days of the Roman Empire. I hope neither writer views this as their best work. ( )
  DinadansFriend | Nov 22, 2013 |
Nicole, In her fantasies, she thinks about a simpler time and makes a wish to a statue of a Roman god that she could go back to the simple, happy days when the statue was made.

She wakes up the next morning smelling the incredible stench of a Roman city and speaking Latin. She's as ignorant of history as most people, but soon figures out that she's living in a time after Julius Caesar and before the Fall of the Roman Empire. Beyond that…who knows? ( )
  velvetink | Mar 31, 2013 |
Showing 1-5 of 19 (next | show all)
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Judith Tarrprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Turtledove, Harrymain authorall 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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