Thursday, October 16, 2008

When We Were Romans by Matthew Kneale


When We Were Romans by Matthew Kneale
ISBN: 978-0-385-52625-8
Pages: 224
Inside Flap Description:

Nine year old Lawrence is the man in his family.
He carefully watches over his willful little sister, Jemima, and his mother, Hannah. When Hannah becomes convinced her their estranged father is stalking them, the family flees London and heads for Rome, where Hannah lived happily as a young woman. For Lawrence, fascinated by stories of popes and emperors, Rome is an adventure. Though they are short of money and move from home to home, staying with his mother's old friends, little by little their new life seems to be taking shape. But the trouble that brought them to Italy will not quite leave them in peace.

Narrated in Lawrence's perfectly rendered voice, When We Were Romans powerfully evokes the emotions and confusions of childhood--the triumphs, the jealousies, the fears and the love. Even as everything he understands is turned upside down, Lawrence remains determined to keep his family together--a perspective that is at once endearingly innocent and preternaturally wise.

My Rating: A+

At first this was a hard book to get into. The writing style takes a few pages. But thankfully about 20 pages in I was in love. This book could only be written with the misspelled words and the odd grammar. I've never read something that made me go back to when I was nine or ten and got mad at things that now seem so very trivial or happy about things as simple as getting to eat the food you want for dinner.

I was surprised by the amount of sadness in this book though. It's really a very sad story. I often wanted to just shake Hannah and say "Look at what you're doing to this sweet wonderful child!" But that I do believe is the whole point of being an author.

This is a very unique and eye opening look at how mental illness in a parent affects the child. It's written on a deeply intimate level that will take much to top.

I highly recommend this book!


  1. I've never even heard of this one but it sounds awesome. TBR list addition!

  2. Ahhhh I got an ARC of this book a while back and I read/LOVED it. Never reviewed it though maybe now I should. More people need to hear of this book. I don't think it's YA, so I might not have found it in stores because I wouldn't have looked. But it's so brilliant. I told my dad he has to read it... even left it in his office with a post-it saying "read me". He hasn't yet. Been too busy, but as soon as he has some time HE IS READING IT OMG.

  3. I was surprised by how much I loved this book as well. If I remember correctly, it made my top ten for the year.


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