When We Were Romans

Matthew Kneale

02 May 2008
304 pages


Nine-year-old Lawrence is the man in his family, watching protectively over his mother and his wilful little sister Jemima. When the three of them suddenly move to Rome it seems at first to be a great adventure: a long drive through the night to the city of popes and emperors. But as his mother's behaviour becomes increasingly erratic, and the threat that had forced them to Italy seems to have followed them there, Lawrence's excitement at his new surroundings gives way to something far harder to endure.

Told in the engaging voice of Lawrence, this haunting psychological novel powerfully evokes all the feelings of childhood - the triumphs, the jealousies, the fears, the possessions, and most of all, the love.

'Heartbreakingly moving . . . Full of restraint and artistic integrity, this is a poignant, haunting and lovely novel' Joanna Briscoe, Guardian

'The road trip is narrated by Lawrence with insight, humour and sweetly erratic spelling . . . The fragility of a family is sensed beautifully' Financial Times

'I believed in Lawrence as a character. His voice is skilfully realised, to the extent that I felt I could actually hear it . . . I cried at the end' Irish Times