When We Were Romans

B+
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July 18, 2008 at 04:00 AM EDT

Nine-year-old Lawrence, the precocious narrator of this polished novel, flees Britain with his quixotic mother, bratty kid sister, and cherished collection of Tintin books. Their destination: Rome. Their ostensible goal: to escape Lawrence’s estranged, possibly menacing father. But what is really happening becomes sadly apparent as we watch the family career haphazardly around the Eternal City, crashing in random apartments, making and losing friends, all while running chronically short of cash. How much Lawrence understands of his family’s tribulations is When We Were Romans‘ central, poignant mystery; the consummate artistry with which Matthew Kneale captures this child’s voice, its chief pleasure. B+

When We Were Romans

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When We Were Romans

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