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Locadio's Apprentice is a gentle, appealing historical novel which is also a straightforward and easily accessible example of what is known as a bildungsroman, meaning a novel of education or personal development. The book relates how the dedicated apprentice Enecus is gradually transformed from an idealistic youngster into a seasoned but humane physician. This transformation is effected in part by the gruff and demanding Locadio, Enecus's teacher, and in part by the terror of Mount Vesuvius's eruption. This eruption, which occurred in A.D. 79, buried in its entirety the city of Pompeii, the city where Enecus and his family live. By placing the novel within the context of Pompeii's destruction, Yarbro effectively complements Enecus's own personal history—his struggle against the common and personal horrors of nature, such as accident, disease, and death—with the cataclysmic horrors of history. This combination not only helps animate and make more humanly real the distant past; it also serves to intensify and make more concrete Enecus's own individual growing process.

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