This B&N Book Club Edition contains an extra chapter, an interview with Tara Conklin, and an exclusive reading group guide.
The New York Times bestselling author of The House Girl explores the lives of four siblings in this ambitious and absorbing novel in the vein of Commonwealth and The Interestings.“The greatest works of poetry, what makes each of us a poet, are the stories we tell about ourselves. We create them out of family and blood and friends and love and hate and what we’ve read and watched and witnessed. Longing and regret, illness, broken bones, broken hearts, achievements, money won and lost, palm readings and visions. We tell these stories until we believe them.”
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 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. A novel that pierces the heart and lingers in the mind, it is also 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.
|Edition description:||Barnes & Noble Book Club Edition|
|Product dimensions:||6.20(w) x 8.90(h) x 1.50(d)|
About the Author
Tara Conklin has worked as a litigator in the New York and London offices of a corporate law firm but now devotes her time to writing fiction. She received 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 at Tufts University. Born in St. Croix, she grew up in Massachusetts and now lives with her family in Seattle, Washington. The House Girl is her first novel.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
You will love this book.
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.
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.
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.
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