Customer Reviews for

When We Were Romans

Average Rating 3.5
( 9 )
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  • Posted June 28, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Engaging afternoon's read despite some major flaws

    When We Were Romans by Matthew Kneale is really a long short story or perhaps, at most, a novella if you take out the quasi-scientific/historical digressions of the child narrator's mind. (Most of these extraneous musings I happily skipped over.)
    That said, the book is a poignant story of a young boy and his little sister dealing with parental disintegration and there is authenticity in the author's presentation of Lawrence's viewpoint and in the depictions of him and his sister (gotta love Jemima!) However, it is a bit ridiculous of Neale to randomly and arbitrarily misspell words and grammatically butcher the text; the child's viewpoint is realistically presented without attempting to create the (poorly executed) fiction that a child actually scribbled the prose. A proofread manuscript would enhance the reader's experience without detracting from the perception of seeing through Lawrence's eyes.
    By the way, contrary to Pat Conroy's assertion on this book's cover, this is nothing like Scout's viewpoint in To Kill a Mockingbird. Although Neale's story's narrator is telling of a past experience, it is barely in the past. Scout is narrating from the long vantage point of an adult - with all the reflection and understanding that implies - many years after the events depicted in the novel. There is a world of difference in those two approaches.
    Despite the flaws, I still enjoyed this quick read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 13, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    A quirky story

    I enjoyed this, in the way that I would enjoy talking to a precocious child. You have to keep in mind that the narrator is a nine-year old boy and sees the world from that vantage point. The book is written in as stream of consciousness (there were times I found myself gasping for breath just trying to keep up) and a lot of the spelling is phonetic (a little disconcerting, but easy to figure out if you pronounce the words). But, it works. The author succeeds in making the reader really get into Lawrence's life and the adjustments he has to make when his mother moves his little family to Rome.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 15, 2008

    Charming and Original

    How I love Lawrence. He is a sweet soul whose devotion to his family is unwaivering. He faces so many obstacles yet manages to keep positive and only occasionally cross. An excellent discussion of how we raise our children could ensue. It is truly through the lens of devotion to his mother that Lawence sees the world. What do we tell our own children? Are we correct?

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 7, 2008

    Not what I expected

    Narrated in the voice of nine-year-old Lawrence, the story begins when his mother, Hanna, becomes convinced that their estranged father is stalking them. Hanna packs up the car and the family sets off on a trip from their home in London to Rome. Once in Rome, the city where Hanna lived as a young woman, the family bounces from friend to friend quickly overstaying their welcome in each place. Then just when it seems that they¿ve found a place to call their own the unthinkable has happened and trouble begins again. Initially it was hard to get past the misspelled words and grammatical errors from the story being told by Lawrence but I kept reading and the storyline dragged along until midway through. Just at the point when I was about to throw in the towel and move on the book picked up the pace and the story came alive. Then it came to a screeching halt again with the ending. Saying anymore would be letting out a spoiler so I¿ll just say that the ending left me asking too many questions for this to be a satisfying read.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 13, 2008

    Interesting Read

    This book is an interesting read that delves into the topsy turvy world that young Lawrence, his sister Jemima and their mother live in. The story is told by Lawrence a nine year old boy who has been forced by circumstances to shoulder way too much responsibilities for such a young child. Shortly after meeting the family, they are on the run from a father who is portrayed as an ominous figure who means to do his family ill. The family ends up in Rome, living on the mercy of friends, charity of strangers and some good old fashion luck. Through it all Lawrence is our guide, fascinated by Roman leaders of days past, astronomy and trying to navigate the world around him. Very early on I realized that Lawrence is not as reliable a narrator as he would have us believe. His naivety clouds his ability to realize the true enormity of his situation. But this is not his fault as he is only a child and has a child's propensity to believe adults that he has come to love and trust. I believe that most people will realize certain facts very early on and know what is really going on. But I will not go into those details cause I hate when people spoil a book for those who have not read it. I thought it was an a good enough read. Some of the draw backs of this book is that it is told in a child's voice, complete with misspellings. For awhile that literary device worked but then it just got a tad annoying and overdone. The book also dragged in parts and as much as it was a short book at 224 pages, I think it should have been shorter as parts of it just felt unnecessary. One of the best things about this book was its ability to convey the powerlessness of childhood, the petty jealousies of youth, sibling rivalry and the many feelings and emotions that being a child evokes.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2010

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    Posted November 12, 2008

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    Posted May 25, 2010

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    Posted November 15, 2012

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