A Read with Jenna Today Show Book Club Pick! An Instant New York Times Bestseller Named a Best Book of the Month by Goodreads * Lithub * Refinery29 * InStyle * HelloGiggles * Real Simple * Parade * PureWow * Bustle "A richly observed novel, both ambitious and welcoming." -- Meg Wolitzer A sweeping yet intimate epic about one American family, The Last Romantics is an unforgettable exploration of the ties that bind us together, the responsibilities we embrace and the duties we resent, and how we can lose--and sometimes rescue--the ones we love. When the renowned poet Fiona Skinner is asked about the inspiration behind her iconic work, The Love Poem, she tells her audience a story about her family and a betrayal that reverberates through time. It begins in a big yellow house with a funeral, an iron poker, and a brief variation forever known as the Pause: a free and feral summer in a middle-class Connecticut town. Caught between the predictable life they once led and an uncertain future that stretches before them, the Skinner siblings--fierce Renee, sensitive Caroline, golden boy Joe and watchful Fiona--emerge from the Pause staunchly loyal and deeply connected. Two decades later, the siblings find themselves once again confronted with a family crisis that tests the strength of these bonds and forces them to question the life choices they've made and ask what, exactly, they will do for love. A novel that pierces the heart and lingers in the mind, The Last Romantics is a beautiful meditation on the power of stories--how they navigate us through difficult times, help us understand the past, and point the way toward our future.
Renee was the oldest, Caroline was next in line, Joe was the only boy, and Fiona was the baby when it all happened. They called this time their mother was absent The Pause. The Pause went on for a few years.
The children did well for a while, but then things started to get tough. Renee couldn’t take the responsibility, and the other children couldn’t do without her. They started going their separate ways and weren’t as close knit as they had been until one day another adult stepped in, got them some help, and got their mother Antonia out of bed.
Things looked up after that, and the family unit worked better together as everyone grew up.
We learn of what happened to each family member whether good or bad. They all loved each other and were there for each other.
I was disappointed in this book even though it has Ms. Conklin's beautiful, detailed writing.
THE LAST ROMANTICS was not an appealing read or of interest, and I struggled to read it in its entirety especially since I LOVED her first book.
I know I am in the minority for opinions. 2/5
This book was given to me as an ARC by the publisher via NETGALLEY and in print in exchange for an honest review.
I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher via LibraryThing's early reviewer program in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!
I loved Tara Conklin's The House Girl, so I think I had unreasonably high hopes for this book. It is a good book, but not (in my opinion) as good as the author's previous novel. This is the story of four siblings, beginning after the death of their father during their childhood and stretching into the future. Narrated by Fiona, the youngest daughter who eventually becomes a famous poet, this book explores each sibling's life, but also at times, mediates on family, love, secrets, politics, and climate change. Overall, I liked the book and it did offer a compelling story that kept the pages turning.
"In a sense stories are all we have to tell us about the future."
"In poetry's stripped-down urgency, in its openness, the space between lines, the repetition and essentialism-poets can speak in ways that transcend culture and gender and time."
This novel of family dynamics and dysfunction begins in the year 2079. Fiona Skinner the youngest of the Skinner clan at the age of 102 is a renowned poet. As she addresses the audience who has assembled to discuss her poetry, a young woman with a name from Fiona's past questions her about a line contained in one of her most famous poems, "The Love Poem". To explain, Fiona must return and recount the days of her childhood and life with her sisters, brother and mother. This portion of the book brought to mind the elderly woman in the movie Titanic reminiscing about Jack. The technique works well here too.
The reader learns of the three events which shaped the lives of the Skinner children, "The Pause", "The Unraveling" and "After". The reader discovers that each family member grieves in a different manner and each moves on when reconciliation moves in.
Ms. Conklin throws in a few Easter eggs to keep the reader anticipating and surmising. A couple which I would have enjoyed seeing more fully developed were just dropped but in actuality were not essential to the story.
Very readable and fast paced despite the lack of a lot of action. At it's heart, The Last Romantics is a family drama sharing in the ups and downs which occur in the lives of every reader.
From the first page, I felt that I was being told an intimate story by a unique storyteller. I felt like no one else would or could hear this story, only me. It was so rich, and so loving, and so happy/sad, and so complete/incomplete. I want to read it again already.
There is no way to completely describe the writing alone, let alone the combination of the perfect words and the perfect story. It is so touching. As Fiona told the story, sometimes I was her, and sometimes I was her sisters, and always I was feeling for all of them. I still am.
Read this book if you are human. You owe it to yourself.
Thank you to librarything.com and the publisher for my copy of this book.
This book was SO GOOD. I love a good family history/family drama and this one did not disappoint. I didn't agree with all of the choices the siblings made and really found myself disliking Noni for a while. In the end, they all look out for each other and love each other the best they know how. I found myself relating to Caroline the most, especially her struggles.
I especially loved the way Conklin described how everyone ended. It reminded me of the series finale of 'Six Feet Under'. I wanted to know all the details and how they were all connected. Such a beautiful ending!
If you enjoyed Commonwealth by Ann Patchet, you might like The Last Romantics.
The novel is mostly serious in tone but has many light moments as well. It is told primarily by the youngest sibling in her old age and shifts back and forth in time but is fairly easy to follow despite some subplot diversions. The novel is neither light nor heavy. And the title fits the story for numerous (and contradictory) reasons.
It seems to be about how different people personally and collectively experience both love and grief and then how their individual reactions permanently affect not only themselves but those around them. The subject and plot are intriguing and well told. The characters are credible and some stories seem familiar but their paths from childhood to adulthood not entirely predictable. While, I could identify with each of them in some significant way, I could never fully fix on any one of them. In my imagination they became people I know associated with their names rather than traits. Consequently, at times, I failed to engage fully with some of the more soul searching moments. This may have been intentional – possibly the characters became hollow through loss.
Nevertheless, I enjoyed this book and would recommend it – although mostly to women. It will generate some good book club discussions about family and marriage and will likely be compared to Ann Patchett’s, Commonwealth, which I really admired and enjoyed. So, I tried not to make this particular comparison as I read – wanting to reserve all judgment until the last sentence. While I came away satisfied with the novel as a whole in the end, I was not thinking that would be the case -- even as I approached the conclusion. But, despite all this seeming ambivalence, I did like it, and Conklin’s other novel, The House Girl, will be added to my reading list.
But The Last Romantics isn’t really just a story. It’s a tale that grabs you from the very first page and won’t let go. Things can change in a moment – what seemed so good is now oh so bad. Life can be cruel. Four seemingly happy, innocent children, through no fault of theirs, have their perfect life pulled right out from under them. Their father suddenly dies, and nothing is the same after that. That perfect life, with the perfect parents and the perfect home, is no more. They are forced to move. And their mother stops being a mother. Their lives are forever changed.
The story is told from the perspective of Fiona, the youngest child. She has become a renowned poet, and at her first public appearance in 25 years, and at the age of 102, is asked about the inspiration for her iconic work. Her response is spellbinding and begins with the death of her father. It’s a sprawling tale of love and loss and betrayal, of how relationships are formed and destroyed, of how and why people become who they are, and of how family is always still family.
I received an advanced copy of The Last Romantics from the publisher William Morrow, but my opinions are my own and I was not required to provide a review. I found The Last Romantics to be fascinating, gripping, riveting. The writing is strong and the characters very well developed. You can’t help but get lost in their story. I will not soon forget The Last Romantics and highly recommend it.
Ellis Skinner was 34 when he died suddenly, leaving behind 4 children, ranging in age from 11 to 4, and a wife who had no idea of the dismal state of their finances until her dentist husband is gone. Mother Noni falls into an all consuming depression that lasts for years and that the children call The Pause, during which they must fend for themselves, running a little feral and solidifying each of them into the person she and he will grow to be as adults. Renee is the oldest, driven to take on the responsibility of her younger siblings, taking care of others before herself. Eight year old Caroline is the worrier, leaning into family, although not to her own family but to the Duffy crew the Skinner kids meet that first summer. Seven year old Joe is the golden child, beloved by everyone but whose troubles are either hidden, ignored, or explained away, leaving him searching for what he's missing, first through baseball and then through alcohol. And four year old Fiona, the baby of the family is the observer, coming to hold the family story close and finally to record it through her poetry, to give it voice. The children persevere and survive and eventually Noni comes out of her crushing depression but the siblings always wonder about her emotional resiliency and protect her from any unpleasantness until there is no way to protect her or their own hearts.
The story is framed, and occasionally interrupted, by celebrated poet Fiona Skinner at a reading in 2079, answering audience questions, one of which leads her to tell her family's story, continuing on even during a power outage that seems to stretch on and become slightly sinister. Fiona, now 102 years old and quite famous, narrates the majority of the story in the first person, slowly revealing long held secrets and highlighting the enduring bond that grew between the four Skinner siblings in the aftermath of their father's death and their mother's retreat. The narration occasionally shifts to third person when Conklin wants to show the reader a closer look at what is going on with the other three siblings that Fiona could not have known. The shifts are smooth but sometimes they are so subtle, it takes the reader a minute to adjust to the fact that the focus has changed.
The sibling relationships are the anchor of this novel. They are messy and sometimes frayed, but the strength of the Skinners' history with each other keeps them forever tethered no matter how far they may roam. The conceit of the future setting seems unnecessary as there are only small hints of the reality of life in 2079; the real story is that of Fiona's childhood into adulthood, perhaps even as far as middle age. The beginning is a little slow but the occasional allusions to further tragedy will keep the reader engaged in the story and invested in these flawed but oh so real feeling siblings. The end comes quickly, even as events come fast and furious, each sibling's life wrapped up in just a few sentences once Fiona has revealed what she has lived with for so long. Each character is scarred, perhaps not visibly like two of the minor characters, but marked nonetheless, forever carrying proof of the pain they endured but eventually allowing it to heal and be relegated to the past. This is a sensitive, well-written look at love, responsibility, addiction, mental health, and grief in a family fractured and mended over and over again and fans of sibling books and of families struggling but ultimately uniting will enjoy this for sure.
Another was I found it hard to believe that some things that the author says were kept secret could have been--for example. that Fiona's husband doesn't know anything about her search for Luna, which is portrayed as very time consuming.
Overall, though I found this a compellingly good read.
I received this book as part of the Early Reviewers program.
I've had Tara Conklin's previous book, The House Girl, on my to-be-read pile for quite some time, though haven't yet read that one, despite its acclaim. The Last Romantics became available to me as an advanced reader copy, and knowing the popularity of her previous book, I was more than happy to dive into this one. For the most part, this was well written, and as with most family sagas, I enjoyed following the siblings from their youth into adulthood, and further still into their advanced years. The story is told primarily from the point of view of Fiona, the youngest sibling, and while the majority of the book follows along in chronological order, there are several interludes that fast forward into the future, where Fiona is 102 years old, an established poet, and is at a gathering explaining the background for her most well-known book of poetry, which is based on her family. In these sections, there are references to some sort of past and ongoing climate change, and regular safety drills which seem to occur on a regular basis. While a small aspect of these forward flashes in time relates to the story, it mostly served as a distraction and it just didn't quite seem to mesh with the rest of the story. Based on other reviews I've read of this book, other readers have had the same reaction. While the book was good on the whole, I think I would have rated it higher, had this aspect been fleshed out better and not seemed so distracting and disjointed.
Unfortunately, despite my love for poetry, romance, and baseball, interest flags because none of the main characters resonate.
Unsavory Noni. Joe, the addict. Lying, sex driven Fiona. Boring Carolyn. Good and loyal Nathan. Underdeveloped Will and Jonathan. Uneven Renee.
Meanwhile, the plot gets overwhelmed with both family secrets and an abundance of fatalistic foreshadowing.
By the time something actually happens, many readers simply will not care.
Many practical matters also go unexplained, like where did the money come from to support the family during the three year "Pause?"
There are a few unexpected twists, roadblocks thrown in here and there, the things many of us have to deal with a times. Ultimately, this is a novel about love, what we survive, what we forgive and what we pretend not to know to spare another. It is about growing and reacting to the situations we experience. There is happiness, sadness, challenges, all the things of which life and family are made. I enjoyed this, though the ending was a little more emotional that I would have liked. But like life, perfection is not always possible and I enjoyed these characters very much.
"For many years loved seemed to me not something that enriched or emboldened but a blind hole into which you fell, and in the falling you forgot what it was to live in your own light."
ARC from Edelweiss.
I liked this story. I liked Fiona's first person point-of-view. I liked the Skinner children. I was ambivalent about Noni. The character development is fantastic. I came to know each one and could figure out what they would do in a particular situation.
I liked how the story starts in the future then flashes back to the present day times as Fiona tells her story. There is a lot to think about in the story and relate it to today's happenings. I wanted to know Fiona's story as much as Luna did. I was riveted.
Disappointed-yes. I read the rave reviews and thought WOW i lucked out with this win from Goodreads! But it was not for me. Lots of potential being a generational family book but...just not up my alley.
This must be one of those 'read it for yourself' and see what YOU think books.