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When We Were Romans by Matthew Kneale
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When We Were Romans (edition 2008)

by Matthew Kneale

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
3575030,515 (3.42)62
Member:DetailMuse
Title:When We Were Romans
Authors:Matthew Kneale
Info:Nan A. Talese (2008), Hardcover, 240 pages
Collections:Read in 2008, Read but unowned
Rating:***1/2
Tags:Fiction, Suspense, POV, POV-child, RC, 888, 2008, @D

Work details

When We Were Romans by Matthew Kneale

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  1. 20
    The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon (DetailMuse, tangentialine)
    tangentialine: these two books are formally similar in ways that can be annoying, but they tackle dramatically different issues.
  2. 10
    The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Bread: A Novel by Don Robertson (JGoto)
  3. 00
    Room by Emma Donoghue (DetailMuse)
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» See also 62 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 51 (next | show all)
The last 20 pages took this from 2 stars to 2.5 stars.

I was very disappointed with this book, as I have really enjoyed others by Matthew Kneale.

I didn't get on with the child stream of consciousness writing style, and found it monotonous. The characters were unlikeable and one dimensional. The story was also one dimensional, and it wasn't until the (redeeming) final pages that the complexities and different aspects of the story became apparent. ( )
  rlangston | Jul 17, 2014 |
Matthew Kneale is a very impressive ventriloquist. Unlike his more celebrated English Passengers, this book is narrated in a single voice - that of nine year old Lawrence, taken to Rome with his younger sister by his flaky mother. Not too much of a spoiler to suggest that things go wrong and fall apart. Lawrence's voice is engaging and convincing - his take on the world of adults, trying to keep control as everything spirals out of control, is fresh, consistent and compelling. Is this strong enough to hold together a whole novel? I'm not sure the rather sensational ending quite works as well as the deceptively normal passage of this wind swept family through Rome, but it is affecting and moviing.
  otterley | Nov 10, 2013 |
There's just not enough of an arc to the story and enough going on for it warrant a novel or novella. This could have been stronger as a short story. ( )
  nog | May 16, 2013 |
This rarely ever happens, but I guessed the twist almost immediately, and after that there wasn't much left. ( )
  JennyArch | Apr 3, 2013 |
Told in the voice of nine-year-old Lawrence, this is the story of a divorced mother trying to protect herself and her children (Lawrence and his three-year-old sister, Jemima) from their abusive father. Lawrence is the man of the house: he tries to protect his mother and keep her from slipping into depression, struggles to protect his baby sister from learning the truth about Dad, and cares for his pet hamster.

But, what is the truth? Like the Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, we have a child narrator who doesn't fully understand what it going on. The author enables the reader to see the truth without ever abandoning Lawrence's voice or point of view.

This is a great story of family loyalties and the bonds between mother and child.

(p.s. Yes, the misspellings bothered me a bit, but still a great book!) ( )
  LynnB | Sep 24, 2011 |
Showing 1-5 of 51 (next | show all)
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For my father, who taught me so much about how to build a story.
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One day scientists found something strange out in space.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0385526253, Hardcover)

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 that 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, viewing the world from a perspective that is at once endearingly innocent and preternaturally wise.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:59:45 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Nine-year-old Lawrence watches protectively over his mother and little sister, especially when, feeling endangered by their estranged father, his mother decides the three of them must leave their life in England to seek refuge in Rome.

(summary from another edition)

» see all 3 descriptions

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