matthew kneale


when we were romans .... When We Were Romans

Nine-year-old Lawrence is the man of his family. He watches protectively over his mother and his willful little sister Jemima. He is the one who keeps things order, especially when, quite suddenly, his mother decides the three of them must leave their live in England behind.

Their destination is Rome, where she lived when she was young, and as they drive through the night in a car filled to bursting, the excitement takes them back to those happier days. For Lawrence, fascinated by stories of popes and emperors, Rome is an adventure. Though short of money, and passed from one to another of his mother’s old friends, it seems that little by little their new life is beginning to shape. But the mystery that brought them to Italy will not quite leave them in peace.

When We Were Romans is a haunting psychological novel. Powerfully evoking the feelings of childhood – the triumphs, the jealousies, the fears the possessions, the love – it is most of all the story of Lawrence: of how, with a wisdom well in advance of his years, he strives to keep his family together, as everything he understands is turned upside down.


small crimes in an age of abundance .... Small Crimes in an Age of Abundance

In his volume of gripping short stories, Matthew Kneale takes us on a journey around today’s uncertain world. From England to South America, China to the Middle East, the united States to Africa, Kneale applies his gifts as a master storyteller, vividly capturing the lives of ordinary people as they struggle to live and to do the right thing, often managing neither.

We follow a smugly well-intentioned English family, who leave their tour group in China to travel alone and collide with the ruthless side of the country, slowly becoming complicit with its violence; a charmless oil worker in a dusty Central Asian village who realizes he can possess the local beauty; a ploddingly respectable London lawyer who chances upon a stash of cocaine and discovers it offers the wealth and status he hungers for; a devoted housewife in the American Midwest who finds herself compelled to betray her husband and family; a self-doubting suicide bomber.

Matthew Kneale transports readers across frontiers in an instant, setting the foreign and the familiar side by side, and challenging our understanding of both. By turns painful an, moving and wickedly funny, the book gains momentum until the world seems to be revealed to us in a new way. Small Crimes in an Age of Abundance si a ground-breaking work by a master of the uncertainties of our time.


english passengers .... English Passengers

Determined to prove the literal truth of the Bible against atheist geologists, the Reverend Geoffrey Wilson sets out from England, in the summer of 1857, with an expedition of to find the Garden of Eden, which he is convinced lies on the island of Tasmania. Unknown to him, others in the party have very different agendas, notably the surgeon, Dr Potter, who is developing a revolutionary and sinister thesis of his own on the races of man. To complicate matters further, the ship Wilson has hurriedly chartered, crewed by Captain Kewley and his secretive Manxmen, is in fact an ill-starred smuggling vessel, its hidden compartments filled with contraband, brandy and tobacco.

As the vessel journeys haplessly southwards, in Tasmania itself an Aboriginal names Peevay recounts his people’s struggle against the invading British, who prove as lethal in their good intentions as in their cruelty. This is no Eden but a world of hunting parties and colonial ethnic cleansing. As the English Passengers near Peevay’s land, their bizarre notions ever more painfully at odds with reality, it grows clear that a mighty collision is approaching.

English Passengers is narrated by over twenty characters, each so distinct that the effect is of a story not so much told as peopled. In a storm of hugely entertaining voices it brings a past age to vivid and memorable life.


sweet thames .... Sweet Thames

London in the summer of 1849. With a deadly cholera epidemic threatening, young engineer Joshua Jeavons is convinced it is his mission to save the capital and reform its festering sewers. Meanwhile in his dometsic life he is troubled by the baffling coldness shown towards him by his beautiful bride, Isobella. As he struggles to win her round, he works feverishly on a revolutionary drainage plan. This is his dream, his dazzling vision of the future: a London free of effluent. Then a sudden and mystifying disappearance throws his whole life upside-down. He is forced to embark on a harrowing search, which plucks him from his respectable life and throws him into a London previously unknown to him. A netherworld of slum-dwellers, pickpockets and scavengers of the sewers. He will find it is this very world that holds unexpected answers to the mysteries that surround him.


inside rose's kingdom .... Inside Rose's Kingdom

“They’re just not my sort of people.” William Cade sometimes feels he should like Rose and the other members of the shared house. They are so kind. Far more so than the family he has so recently broken away from, to escape the tedium of farm life. But he finds Rose Rose’s concern disquieting. And there is a strange intensity to the household, with its trust games and therapy sessions they urge him to join, for his own good. Slowly he begins to control of his new urban life, and finds himself sure of very little, least of all his own judgement.

Matthew Kneale’s blackly humourous second novel, Inside Rose’s Kingdom, seeks out the strangeness of today’s niches and corners: a London Squat, Mr Skate’s bucket shop travel agency, a frenzied hall in the DHSS and, of course, Rose’s household itself.


whore banquets mr foreigner .... Whore Banquets / Mr Foreigner

Daniel Thayne, a young Englishman, finds himself trapped in Tokyo. His passport lost, he is working illegally in a ramshackle language school, with a boss who refuses to pay his salary. He is in a dead-end relationship with Keiko, his Japanese girlfriend, whose apartment is filled with stuffed toys.

But his troubles are only beginning. As the hot, stormy rainy season descends, Keiko’s family appear on his doorstep, determined to pressure him into marriage with their daughter. Owners of their own mysterious and threatening ‘Company Business’ (or is it ‘Business Company?) they set about taking over his life. As Daniel resists, or tries to, he will learn a great deal about Japanese – good and bad – and about his own culture.


.... 'An Atheist's History of Belief, Understanding our most extraordinary invention'

An Atheist’s History of Belief’ is a short, concise, and meticulously researched account, written by a fascinated non-believer. The book looks at how our beliefs developed, and, most of all, asks why we devised such things? What led us first to invent Gods? Why did we invent heaven, and introduce morality into religion? What led us to invent the end of the world? How did Christianity, a short-lived and intensely Jewish end of the world movement, go on to gain religious near monopoly over a large part of the globe?

This book does not concern itself with religious institutions and their power struggles. It likewise avoids religious jargon. Beginning 33,000 years ago and continuing up to the present, the book describes the beliefs that ordinary people developed to try and make sense of their world.

The book does not seek to belittle religious beliefs. It regards them as essential for a proper understanding of our world. The author considers belief to be greatest imaginative project - one that non-believers ignore at their peril. Human history, he feels, can be better understood, not through the clear air of scientific discovery, but rather through the murky waters of intense, emotional, and, at times, downright odd, beliefs. atheist's history of belief.



A fascinating history of the city of Rome, seen through the eyes of its most significant sackings, from the Gauls to the Nazis and everything in between.

No city on earth has preserved its past as has Rome. Visitors stand on bridges that were crossed by Julius Caesar and Cicero, walk around temples visited by Roman emperors, and step into churches that have hardly changed since popes celebrated mass in them sixteen centuries ago. These architectural survivals are all the more remarkable considering the violent disasters that have struck the city. Afflicted by earthquakes, floods, fires and plagues, it has most of all been repeatedly ravaged by roving armies. Rome: A History in Seven Sackings examines the most important of these attacks and reveals, with fascinating insight, how they transformed the city - and not always for the worse.

From the Gauls to the Nazis, Kneale vividly recounts those threatening the city, while drawing an intense and vibrant portrait of the city and its inhabitants, both before and after being attacked. In these troubled times when our cities can seem fragile, Rome's history offers a picture that is both shocking and also reassuring. Like the Neapolitans from Norman Lewis's Naples 44, Romans have repeatedly shrugged off catastrophes and made their city anew.

A meticulously researched, magical and novel blend of travelogue, social and cultural history, Rome: A History in Seven Sackings is part celebration of the fierce courage, panache and vitality of the Roman people, and part passionate love letter to Rome. This is a popular history of the famous, incomparable city like no other.



Copyright Matthew Kneale 2013
Matthew Kneale - An Atheist's History of Belief, Understanding our most extraordinary invention - the new non-fiction book from the author of 'English Passengers', winner of the Whitbread Book of the year Award