When We Were Romans: A Novel

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A Year in Reading: Maria Semple


Maria Semple wrote for Arrested Development, Mad About You and Ellen. Her first novel, This One is Mine, is being published by Little, Brown in December 2008. Read more about it at www.mariasemple.com.Having my first novel coming out this year, I ended up becoming kind of obsessed with the “New Arrival” fiction table at bookstores. Of the dozens of books I bought, my favorite was When We Were Romans by Matthew Kneale. It’s the story of a mentally ill woman dragging her children around Europe, written from the point of view of her nine year old son, Lawrence. The voice is so charming and poignant that months later, it melts my heart just thinking about it. Still, the story is a harrowing one. Another favorite was Two Marriages by Philip Lopate. I’m a fan of anything Lopate writes, so it was a real thrill to devour these two novellas. Speaking of an unforgettable first-person voice, the narrator of the gripping “The Skeptic’s Marriage” is both pitiful and maddening. Lopate manages to have great compassion for his stuffy narrator while knocking him around in a wild and hilarious plot that’s full of surprises. More from A Year in Reading 2008

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