Tuesday, September 30, 2008


WHEN WE WERE ROMANS by Matthew Kneale
Nan A. Talese, Publisher
ISBN: 978-0-385-52625-8

I had not been reading a whole lot lately and decided that I would ease my way back into my 20 plus ARC pile. I chose this book out of the pile mainly because it was only 224 pages long and I figured I could blow through it fairly fast. What follows are my thoughts on this book. Please read the entire review before deciding on this book.

I was hoping for something reasonably light. What I found was a well written book with lots of characters that I did not like. All of them had issues and not a tremendous amount of redeeming qualities. The early reviews likened this book to “To Kill A Mockingbird” and I spent most of the book wondering why. I truly fought my way through the book. The entire book was about the frustrations that the 9 year old protagonist was feeling. It starts out with his mother, his sister, and himself fleeing their cottage in England because of an abusive father that was stalking the family. They run away to Rome to stay with the mother “Hannah’s” friends from years before. The troubles just seemed to get from bad to worse. Slowly throughout the book certain truths started to become more and more apparent to the reader. Even though the story was sad and frustrating I found myself wanting to read more and more. I wanted to have something good start to happen. I wanted the truth to finally come out. Finally when I was done I could feel satisfied. The ending was the best that could have come out of a very bad situation. During the book I got the sense of being a voyeur watching a train wreck taking place. It was painful yet I just could not look away.
After I was done reading the book I started to really think about the character of the boy Lawrence that Matthew Kneale created. I don’t think I have ever seen a better job of creating the voice of a nine year old child hopelessly trying to hold his family together. Torn between his needs as a child and his desire to care for his mother was so perfect that I was unaware of anything but his view of his world. Then in the end the difficulty of overcoming the situation that he was placed in was perfectly portrayed.
If this book is not put on the classic shelf I expect that a hole will exist there than can never quite be filled. If you are looking for a light beach read this is not the book for you. If you want a book that makes you feel and explore the relationships of life this is for you. Highly Recommended


Dawn said...

Your review really gave me a good idea of what this book was about, and why I'd want to read it. Many other reviews I've read were distrated by Lawrence's "voice" with mis-spellings and grammatical errors. Interesting that you didn't mention this at all!

Zibilee said...

I really loved this book, and gave it a very positive review. I thought that is was extremely perceptive. Glad to know you liked it too!