The Last Romantics: A Novel

The Last Romantics: A Novel

by Tara Conklin


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A Read with Jenna Today Show Book Club Pick! 

An Instant New York Times Bestseller

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“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.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780062358219
Publisher: HarperCollins US
Publication date: 01/14/2020
Pages: 384
Sales rank: 129,102
Product dimensions: 5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.86(d)

About the Author

Tara Conklin is the author of the New York Times bestseller The House Girl. Trained as a lawyer, she worked for an international human rights organization and as a litigator at a corporate law firm in London and New York. Her short fiction has appeared in the Bristol Prize Anthology, Pangea: An Anthology of Stories from Around the Globe, and This Is the Place: Women Writing About Home. She holds a BA in history from Yale University, a JD from New York University School of Law, and a Master of Arts in Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School (Tufts University). She lives in Seattle, Washington, with her family.

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The Last Romantics 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 26 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
You will love this book.
gmcootie More than 1 year ago
The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin is the kind of book that gets into your heart, and very nearly breaks it in the process. In this age of stories told by unreliable narrators with their thrilling domestic suspense and their big reveals it is refreshing to read “just a story” about regular people and their everyday lives. There is no giant drama, just the quiet drama of life, with all its ups and downs and joys and sadness. 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.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
SheTreadsSoftly More than 1 year ago
The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin is a very highly recommended family drama. Opening in 2079, Fiona Skinner is a 102-year-old poet who, during a rare public appearance, meets a young woman whose parents named her "Luna" after a woman mentioned in Fiona's world-famous work, "The Love Poem," written 75 years earlier. This Luna wants to know the story behind the real Luna, from the poem. This request requires a long story from Fiona, which makes up the bulk of the novel. 1981 marks the beginning of "the Pause" for the Skinner siblings. This is the year their father suddenly dies, leaving their mother, Noni, a young widow with four children. They move out of their beloved yellow house into a smaller, more modest home and Noni falls into a paralyzing depression that lasts three years. At the beginning of the Pause, the children were 4-year-old Fiona, 7-year-old Joe, 8-year-old Caroline, and 11-year-old Renee. While Noni stays in her bedroom for days at a time, the Skinner children must fend for themselves, which creates a powerful bond between them. Noni eventually reclaims her parental responsibility, but the Pause deeply impacted the whole family with reverberations into adulthood. Noni comes out of it as a much more militant woman, wary of men and any dependence upon them. Fiona serves as the omniscient narrator for the story of her family and how their traumatic childhood continued to be the root of issues which followed them into adulthood. The sibling most damaged by the Pause was Joe, but all of them suffer from consequences and approach adulthood quite differently. Renee is driven and focused as she pursues a medical career. Caroline marries early and is devoted to her professor husband and their children without considering her own desires. Fiona has a mindless job at a nonprofit called ClimateSenseNow! while secretly writing a blog detailing her sexual encounters. Joe has problems with addiction that are basically ignored or quietly handled by the family. The writing is exceptional and the compelling story of the Skinner family will hold your attention throughout the novel. The early trauma from the Pause and the on-going family saga is gripping enough without framing the engrossing parts of the story with hints of a climate changed future. Actually, the chapters set in 2079 serve only as a distraction from the real story. All the oblique references to a dystopian future and climate change are never adequately addressed. These chapters become a structural problem that only serves to detract from the real story. It would have behooved Conklin to find a better venue for Fiona to relate the story of her family. The Last Romantics held my attention, in spite of the structural problems of looking back from the future to tell the story. I enjoyed the narrative immensely, but would go to 4.5 on a rating based on the 2079 chapters framing the real story. Disclosure: My review copy was courtesy of HarperCollins.
TUDORQUEEN More than 1 year ago
Thank you to the publisher William Morrow/Harper Collins who provided an advance reader copy via Edelweiss. This is a story about a family with four kids who live in the middle class town of Bexley, Connecticut. It's 1981, and their father, Ellis Avery Skinner dies suddenly at the age of 34 while working on a patient in his dental practice. Three months following his death, the family must move from their comfortable and stately yellow colonial to a gray one-story ranch house six miles away in a less privileged part of town. Their stay-at-home Mom Antonia (known as "Noni") never realized that they had no reserves of money. At this time, the oldest Renee was eleven, Caroline eight, Joe seven, and the youngest...Fiona...four. In the wake of her new circumstances, Mom Noni had a breakdown of sorts and retreated from all responsibility for her children, spending most of her time secluded in her bedroom. A composed and sensible Renee assumed responsibility for her younger siblings. This period of time would later be dubbed "The Pause" and would last a couple of years. The children became feral, dirty wild things that summer and adopted the nearby pond as their magical place. As the only boy, brother Joe was already treasured, but he soon became idolized even more. He had a natural born talent for baseball, an engaging personality and was physically attractive. It was like he had a golden aura about him and great things were expected to come his way. Renee was extremely responsible and was firmly focused on a medical career; Caroline had a tendency to cry easily and seemed the most pliable; Renee loved to escape in her books and had a flair for writing. "The Pause" ends after an Aunt stays with the family for awhile, providing a strong and sensible adult presence that helps to pull Noni out of the abyss. Noni becomes stronger, gets a job and from that point on stresses the importance of not relying upon a man for success. With the drama of the father/husband's death and the Mom's temporary breakdown in the past, the children are now older and pursing their own lives. Now the conflict of the book settles upon the Godlike figure of Joe, whose life is not as charmed as previously thought. There are struggles rippling throughout the years where the sisters' attention must be directed towards the simmering problems with Joe. Since "The Pause", the sisters are constantly protecting their mother from any family strife that could trigger a mental relapse. Fiona channels her literary prowess into a blog called "The Last Romantic" where she anonymously catalogues and critiques each of her sexual partners. This was a very engaging and interesting read spanning decades with distinctly different characters that have burrowed themselves into my heart. Highly recommended.
Anonymous 8 months ago
the writing is fabulous and the story is heartfelt. it truly struck a chord with me. I could see myself in every one of the characters. Put it on the top of your "must read" list.
Anonymous 8 months ago
this story is too scattered, Didn't enjoy life her first book,
gigi08 More than 1 year ago
This is a story about a family of siblings. The Skinners, Renee the oldest, Caroline, Joe and Fiona the youngest. We also get to met their mother who they called Noni. The ups and downs of their lives, the loves found and than lost. We learn that they suffer a horrible loss when their father suddenly dies. How they and noni cope with the sudden loss. Noni stays in her room leaving the children to take care each other. They refer to this time as the pause. Eventually Noni comes back to them and tries in her own way to teach the kids about life especially the girls. The kids all go to college and move on with theirlives . Renee becomes a DR, Caroline never finishes college but marries her high school sweetheart Nathan and becomes a mother, Joe the college athlete is having his own problems battling his own demons, and Fiona writes a popular poem and also a romance blog. I am going to end this here. I have tried hard not to give too much away. This is a great story about a family love for one another their triumphs and their tragedies. Thanks you William Morrow Books for the ARC of this
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Luva_Challengingread More than 1 year ago
Very disappointed! Bought this book because it was chosen by the B&N book club. I’ll never so that again. I really want my money back. I’ve never said that about any other book. Boring and predictable... What a waste of time...
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This booked was purchased at the recommendation of a tv book club. If it was not my nature to see something to the end, I would have put it down and spent my time on something with depth of character. I kept waiting for the moment of redemption. In an effort to prevent ruining it for anyone who enjoys exercises in futility, I will not give away the conclusion. But this book was, in my opinion, a moral disappointment and a waste of time.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I liked this book and enjoyed reading it. Good portrayal of childhood sibling relationships and life themes.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This was a great read!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Such a great, heart breaking novel
rendezvous_with_reading More than 1 year ago
One event changes a family course Thank you William Morrow and TLC book tours for a free copy to review! The sudden loss of their father has deep, lasting effects on the Skinner children, Renee, Caroline, Joe and Fiona. Their mother, Noni, is also deeply affected and folds into her grief leaving the children to run feral and fend for themselves for an extended period of time that the children refer to as "the pause". With the temporary loss of both parents, the children are left to work through their grief in their own way. By the time Noni eventually emerges from her grief, the children have bonded as a foursome and found ways to cope. But as the years go by, it becomes evident that the pain from their youth is deep rooted, and that not everyone has healed. As cracks in the family start to appear the siblings pull together and start to question the paths they've taken and what can be done to rescue one among them. I thought it intriguing that the novel starts in the future, in 2079, with Fiona Skinner as a 102 year old woman. She is the youngest and the narrating voice of the novel. This is quite a different kind of novel from the author's first book, The House Girl. Its an interesting exploration of how one tragic event, can reshape a family's development and future. It seemed to me, that each of the Skinner siblings found a coping mechanism that shaped the adult they became. They each ambled on in their separate paths through life until a tipping point brings them back together and tests the bonds they formed during "the pause". I've always observed, when tragedy strikes, some families pull together and become even closer, and then others are shattered. If you like to observe and psychoanalyze family dynamics, this novel will give you lots to think about.
Onebookatatime More than 1 year ago
This was definitely a page turner with a finish line. To understand the title, you have to read the book. It will surprise you! Also, this was a great choice for the B&N Book Club and one I believe will be remembered and recommended for relentless readers.
smg5775 More than 1 year ago
This follows the Skinner family from childhood to adulthood and how they deal with death, love, and life. 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.
GreatWhiteNorth More than 1 year ago
I bought this for the book club and frankly, I was quite disappointed. A mother who has checked out from her children to merely stay in her room for months and months? It is an uneven and jumpy tale that never seemed to make its point. It was full of kids doing their own thing in the late 70s and 80s unsupervised. The siblings bonded variously as siblings do. Perhaps this would have been better had the time been set in the 30s and 40s.
Msdixie More than 1 year ago
Kept my interest throughout. BUT. I wanted to read the poem that she lead us to believe was to bring our thoughts and minds to a peaceful satisfaction. Did I miss it ? No she took it away from Luna to have published. I have to go back to try and find it or I will be so un....un what? Undone. Incomplete. It has to be in there somewhere ! Why in the world didn’t she tell the sisters about Rory ? They were mature enough to leave the child be. They had their own lives. She was selfish and did them a great injustice.
Buecherwurm161 More than 1 year ago
Well Written. I was a First Read Winner of this book, its not normally the kind of book I gravitate towards, but I heard so much about it that I got curious and wanted to read it. First off it was beautifully written by a very talented Author, but somehow I felt something missing, I can't put my finger on it, but I wanted to know more about this future we found ourselves in at the beginning, and I felt I never got a good lock on any of the characters. I wanted to know more about the two Luna's. Family dramas don't usually entice me since I have enough drama in real life, and maybe that is why I didn't love it as much as some other readers? It held my attention and I immersed myself into the storyline and stayed up way passed my bedtime to finish the book, but it won't make my re-read list.
Peppyob More than 1 year ago
The Last Romantics is a great novel. The story revolves around the lives of four siblings and their mother. The family has a complicated and passionate love relationship with one another, which also affects their external relationships with others. This love is often messy and thorny. They experience great tragedy and heart wrenching, painful moments. However, the love between them is strongly evident. There are joyful times and a resurgence of spirit and hope as well. The story is narrated by the youngest sister, Fiona who is a poet. The story is told from her vantage. She reveals an important secret that she chooses to keep from the others. The story flows beautifully. In an interesting twist, it spans the time between 1981 and 2070.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
beckwith_usa More than 1 year ago
WOW! I imagine it will take a long time to process everything I enjoyed about Tara Conklin's new novel. The author dives deep into the pool of love in many forms as she chronicles the multiple generations of the Skinner family. Front and center are the 4 siblings, who so eloquently describe their upbringing as a series of blocks of time - The Pause, The Unraveling, and so on. Ms. Conklin's description of our life choices as "negotiations we undertake with ourselves in the name of love" succinctly ties in many complicated themes throughout the narrative. I feel like the best parts of some of my favorite novels are represented. Fans of Where the Crawdads Sing, The Immortalists, and Life Among Giants should run to buy this new work