I enjoyed Mary Beard’s book on Pompeii, and I think I’ve read a couple of others, or at least seen her work cited. She’s always struck me as pretty level headed, unlikely to get carried away with conjectures, so I wasn’t really surprised by the fairly sceptical tone of most of these reviews (though I did begin to wonder if anyone, anywhere, could produce work she’d give the green light). It’s a little odd reading a book of essays that are adapted (I’m not sure how much they’ve been changed) from reviews of particular books: some of them seemed very disconnected from the books they purportedly reviewed, which worked fine in this context, but seemed a bit odd when she did start discussing the books.
It’s not just criticism of other people’s theories, although there’s a lot of it there: there’s a general survey of the literature, some discussion of issues that the study of the classics faces in general, some windows into little bits of history.
Mostly, though… it is a book about other books; a rather disparate collection, however much I might want more. The essays are fine, and I did enjoy reading it, but I didn’t feel like I really learned anything new. Just what not to believe!