matthew kneale


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27.11.2017 - Reviews of the new book "Rome: History in Seven Sackings"

Simon Heffer, Sunday Telegraph, 27th Nov 2017 - Best History Books 2017

‘Engagingly told.’

Christian House, Observer, 5th November 2017

‘A stirring portrait of a city at war.’

‘The historian and novelist’s episodic account of a resilient population brings Rome’s fractious past to life.’

Dominic Sandbrook, Sunday Times, 27th November 2017 - Best History Books of 2017

‘As a prize-winning novelist, (Kneale) writes with terrific flair and enthusiasm… few history books this year have been so addictively entertaining.’

28.10.2017 - Reviews of the new book "Rome: History in Seven Sackings"

The Times: Book of the Week

Sunday Times:

Peter Thonemann, Sunday Times, 8th October 2017:
‘Each chapter ends with a thrilling narrative of the fall of Rome…’
‘Enough to make you wonder why more novelists don’t try their hand at history writing.’
‘Kneale’s account is a masterpiece of pacing and suspense. Characters from the city’s history spring to life in his hands.’
‘Kneale has a rare ability to stir the emotions without a hint of mawkishness of melodrama.’
‘This is a big, gaudy, ebullient book. Its unusual premise (the seven sackings as “postcards from Rome’s history”) could easily have felt gimmicky but, in fact, comes across as surprisingly natural.’
‘Kneale has done his adoptive cities proud, all seven of them.’

Literary Review:

Allan Massie, Literary Review, 2nd October 2017:
‘Kneale has found an elegant path through the labyrinth [of Roman history].’
‘Utterly compelling, brilliant indeed.’
‘Wonderfully moving and inspiring.’


19.11.2013 - An interview about my new book in London's Metro...


Sunday Telegraph 02.11.2013 – To make an almighty explosion, just add faith


New Statesman 24.10.2013 – Pope Francis’ mission to cleanse the Catholic Church of luxury 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