When We Were Romans: Book Review

25 Jan

Just a note upfront (even thought it seems little silly since I get about six hits a day and no one is going to send me free books to review) but I bought this book all on my lonesome and am in no way being compensated for this review:

I picked up When We Were Romans: A Novel by Matt Kneale because I read a review somewhere (can’t remember where) that compared it favorably to The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon.  Curious Incident (as I refer to it because I can never quite remember the full title) was a book I really enjoyed reading because I love the switch up of having the narrative be told from the first person point of view of an autistic person. 

When We Were Romans, on the other hand, is told from the point of view of a nine year old boy named Lawrence.  One morning, Lawrence’s mother packs up their car and takes him and his younger sister on a road trip to Rome because she is afraid her ex-husband (their father) is stalking them.   She had lived in Rome before getting married and having children and still had friends there that they would visit and stay with. She remembers many happy times in Rome and is thrilled to be returning.

I thought it was amazing the way that Kneale captured the voice of a nine year old boy.  He is protective of his mother and worries about people upsetting her or hurting her.  He gets angry at her and his sister but can be placated with treats or toys.  He retells stories that he’s read about emperors and Popes in his own words, complete with misspellings and other errors. In other words, he’s nine.  And somehow it’s believable that this story is being told by a nine year old who doesn’t have a big picture of the world or enough experience to understand everything.   He’s just trying to protect his mom and not scare his sister all while on the run from his father.  And all while experiencing Rome and his mother’s old friends. 

I don’t want to say too much more so I don’t ruin the book for anyone because it’s interesting to read it and watch the story unfold through Lawrence’s eyes.  I think it’s enough to say that I highly recommend this book, especially to those who have read Curious Incident and enjoyed it.


One Response to “When We Were Romans: Book Review”

  1. Lucy February 4, 2010 at 11:44 pm #

    I’m always looking for something good to read! I will definitely add this to my book list.

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