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The Last Romantics: A Novel

The Last Romantics: A Novel

Written by Tara Conklin

Narrated by Cassandra Campbell


The Last Romantics: A Novel

Written by Tara Conklin

Narrated by Cassandra Campbell

ratings:
4/5 (157 ratings)
Length:
12 hours
Publisher:
Released:
Feb 5, 2019
ISBN:
9780062898166
Format:
Audiobook

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Also available as bookBook

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Also available as bookBook

Description

From the New York Times best-selling author of The House Girl comes a novel about our most precious and dangerous attachment: family.

In the spring of 1981, the young Skinner siblings — fierce Renee, dreamy Caroline, golden-boy Joe, and watchful Fiona — lose their father to a heart attack and their mother to a paralyzing depression, events that thrust them into a period they will later call “the Pause”. Caught between the predictable life they once led and an uncertain future that stretches before them, the siblings navigate the dangers and resentments of the Pause to emerge fiercely loyal and deeply connected.

Two decades later, the Skinners find themselves 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 what, exactly, they will do for love.

Narrated nearly a century later by the youngest sibling, the renowned poet Fiona Skinner, The Last Romantics spans a lifetime. It’s a story of sex and affection, sacrifice and selfishness, deeply held principles and dashed expectations, a lost engagement ring, a squandered baseball scholarship, unsupervised summers at the neighborhood pond, and an iconic book of love poems. But most of all, it is the story of Renee, Caroline, Joe, and Fiona: the ways they support each other, the ways they betray each other, and the ways they knit back together bonds they have fractured.

In the vein of Commonwealth, Little Fires Everywhere, and The Nest, this is a panoramic, tenderly insightful novel about one devoted, imperfect family. The Last Romantics is an unforgettable exploration of the responsibilities we bear both gracefully and unwillingly and the all-important, ever-complex definition of love.

Publisher:
Released:
Feb 5, 2019
ISBN:
9780062898166
Format:
Audiobook

Also available as...

Also available as bookBook

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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4.0
157 ratings / 53 Reviews
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  • (4/5)
    3.4 Stars, rounded to 4.This book tells the story of four siblings and the closeness they develop as children while their mother is mostly unavailable to them, for about three years. After the death of her husband, Noni Skinner sinks into a deep depression, a period her children later deem “the pause”. The Skinner children learn to depend only on each other. Fiona, the youngest, is the one who’s POV is given most often as she narrates this story, although the lives of each of the four are explored in some depth. Despite their closeness and interdependence, there are cracks that develop in the relationships of all the four siblings in their early adulthood.While I loved the earlier book I read by this author, House Girl, I can only say I mostly enjoyed this book, largely due to the author’s writing style and skills. I did not feel deeply engaged with any of the characters here, or to the story.At the opening of this book, which is set in 2079, when Fiona is 102 years ago and telling the story of her family, it sounded as if it might be a dystopian type story, due to several vague references to what is happening in that 2079 world. But those were never explored any further as the story unfolded, just left hanging.My thanks to Library Thing, the author, and the William Morrow/Harper Collins Publishing Company for the ARC of this book which I was provided.
  • (5/5)
    The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin is the moving story of the family bonds that both save us and tear us asunder. ''...this is a story about the failures of love, and the Pause was the first." from The Last Romantics by Tara ConklinFiona Skinner, 102 years old and a renowned poet, returns to the podium for the first time in twenty-five years. A girl arises from the audience with a question: Who was Luna?The Luna of Fiona's most famous poetry inspired women to name their daughters Luna. And this girl, named Luna, asks for her mother the question--who was Luna?Fiona wrote the poem "a lifetime ago," "back when I was a romantic," she responds. The girl presses. And for the first time ever Fiona reveals the story of her family and the secret she has held in her heart for so long."Once upon a time," she begins, "there was a father and a mother and four children...and for a time they were happy."And like Fiona's audience, enrapt, I was carried away by her story of the ways love carries us and fails us and how we turn from each other and how we carry each other. Her story of love's truth, it's bitterness and how it is the only thing that makes life endurable, and our deeply held illogical hope, which experience tells us is fantasy, that love can and will save us.And that is all I am going to tell you. I still feel the warm heartache, the fullness and pressure in my chest, the awful truth I encountered in this fiction. Look around at your beloved family, the people you have given yourselves to, the people who cut the deepest and brought the fullest healing, who made you strong and brought you to your knees. The people you endeavor to protect and save, the people you have lost and haunt you. And tell me--what is love? I received an ARC from the publisher through NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.
  • (4/5)
    The thing about The Last Romantics that hooked me from the beginning was the name Luna. The mysterious Luna had something to do with Fiona's brother's "incident" and I couldn't stop turning pages to find out how. But this isn't a mystery or even a suspense novel; it's a family history, starting from Fiona's childhood, through the Pause when her mother's depression left Fiona and her siblings to fend for themselves and develop bonds between them that would prove tenuous in later years, to the distant future when an elderly Fiona is recounting the whole story through her poetry. I enjoyed reading this book through it's meandering beginnings to its sweeping ending.
  • (5/5)
    There are four Skinner siblings in Tara Conklin's The Last Romantics. Renee is the oldest, the responsible one. Caroline, the next oldest, is soft-hearted and traditional. Then Joe, the only boy, the gifted athlete, the apple of everyone's eye. And finally Fiona, the baby. The Skinners are a happy family until they're not: when their father dies in an accident, their mother Noni finds out that they're not as well off as she thought, and the loss of not only her husband but the life she thought she had achieved pitches her into a deep depression. They downsize, and Noni takes to her bed. For a couple years. The Skinner children are more or less left to raise themselves during what they come to call The Pause.The seeds of what will become of them are planted during The Pause. Renee takes her responsibilities to take care of the others seriously, and becomes dedicated to achieving at a level that will keep anyone from guessing what's going on at home, setting her down a path towards becoming a doctor. Caroline falls in with a neighbor family, forming a bond with one of their boys that will deepen into romance and marriage. Joe's talent and good looks ensure that his outward needs are met, even if he struggles to process his trauma. And Fiona learns to observe, a skill that comes in handy as she becomes a writer and poet. Noni does recover, and the family seems more or less intact, but the damage that's been done can't be undone.I was biased towards this one from the start: this kind of following-a-group-of-characters-over-time thing is something I absolutely love in a book. I tend to find that the books that stay with me the most are ones where character is first and foremost, and this book is all about character. The siblings and their relationships feel complicated and real. Though they all had moments of being their worst selves, their behaviors felt rooted in how their experiences, particularly during their childhoods, interacted with their innate personalities. I also appreciated that the book never felt the need to have there be a dramatic confrontation between the children and their mother...it generally leaned away from melodrama rather than leaning into it, and I think there are plenty of families that do just try their best to forget the bad moments and move on.As much as I loved this book for the most part, there were some plot elements that kept me from considering it truly great. First was the idea that The Pause could go on for multiple years without anyone really noticing. As much as Renee was able to serve in loco parentis to her younger siblings, there are things like doctor's visits and parent-teacher conferences and signing up for extracurriculars that seem like they could have been patched over for a while but not for as long as Conklin asked us to believe. And then there was the framing device, which featured a very elderly Fiona (in a world where global climate change has changed things for the worse) interacting with a young woman who might have a connection to the Skinners. This did strike me as a little too convenient and neat. On the whole, though, this is a lovely book about the bonds between siblings and would be perfect for a reader who loves well-realized characters. I very much enjoyed it and highly recommend it!
  • (4/5)
    A family saga that spans a century. A story of sibling relationships, how they grow close due to a family situation, come apart, and finally come together again, albeit not the same. Conklin does an excellent job looking into her characters lives with a keen insight and a generosity towards the flaws each holds within. The pacing is terrific, despite the time period it covers it never feels rushed. Fiona, the youngest sister is our narrator, and her experiences as the youngest in a family of four seems authentic and real. Although I'm not quite sure that she should have the knowledge she has towards what the others are thinking and seeing. That is the only minor quibble I have, though it is effective.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.
  • (5/5)
    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.
  • (4/5)
    A special thank you to Edelweiss and HarperCollins for an ARC in exchange for an honest review.Renowned poet, Fiona Skinner, is asked about the inspiration behind "The Love Poem," her most iconic piece. The poem is actually a story about her family and a betrayal that spans years.The Skinner siblings—Renee, Caroline, Joe, and Fiona—are in limbo. They are caught between their previous life when their father was still alive, and their uncertain future without him. His death sets in motion several events: Joe's baseball career, the Pause (a period of time where their mother was incapable of leaving her bedroom), moving to a smaller home, and one unsupervised summer where they were almost feral by its end. But what happened that summer was that they forged a deep connection and became incredibly loyal to one another.Two decades later the family is once again marred by tragedy and the siblings are left questioning how deep their bonds really are, their own life choices, and just how far they will go for true love.Conklin's intimate portrait of the Skinners speaks to family obligation, resentment, tragedy, and above all, love. More specifically, the kind of love that is eclipsed by grief and how one family is changed forever after such a monumental loss.This sweeping and moving novel spans a large period of time. Conklin tackles the early years with ease but as the Skinners grow, the more dysfunctional and unlikeable they become. Unfortunately this is how she propels the narrative and I couldn't engage with the older versions of the characters. Also problematic was the futuristic dystopian parts, they didn't work or fit with the style of the rest of the narrative and caused unnecessary bulk. Ultimately what saves the book is Conklin's beautiful writing—I loved The House Girl and really enjoyed parts of this book.
  • (4/5)
    I received an advance reader copy from the Goodreads giveaway program in exchange for this review. The Last Romantics was a novel that was easy to fall into, well written and nicely paced. The four siblings at the center of the story provide realistic depictions of family dynamics, the good and the bad. There are some serious messages here about the challenges of parenthood, about career building, and about dealing with grief. It was an interesting twist to set parts of the narrative in 2079 with ominous overtones of future climate issues. A good book for readers who enjoy family sagas.
  • (4/5)
    Loved this book. The family dynamic amongst the siblings was perfectly balanced and complex while remaining relatable to the reader. While set in the future this story provided a non dystopia realistic preview of what the future could be while offering lookbacks to current time and the switch between present and past was done well and seemed fluid. Now I want to read Conklin’s other highly reviewed book, House Girl.
  • (4/5)
    I really enjoyed this book about four siblings who lose their father and have to raise themselves and each other during the years their mother is in a depression afterwards. I felt that each character was unique and well drawn and I enjoyed reading about their relationships with one another and with the world as they each moved into and thru adulthood. The book begins in 2079 from the perspective of the youngest sibling, a poet who is giving a talk. The author drops many tidbits in these 2079 sections about how the world has changed and what like is life but we never get a very full picture of this. I found this aspect of the novel fascinating and wished this had been developed more. I would recommend this book.
  • (4/5)
    The story of 4 siblings whose lives were shaped by a period of time called "the pause" after their father's death and another tragedy once they are adults. I liked the story and I felt the pacing and revealing of their lives was told in an engaging manner. This was mostly told via the youngest sister Fiona. One complaint was that I felt like I would have liked to know her better as a character.
  • (4/5)
    This story takes you through the life of a poet and her family. I found myself both bored and intrigued at any given minute while reading it. There were parts that I felt it really slogged through the mud, so to speak, then other parts that were insightful and interesting. Overall, I'm happy to have read this story, it was a good one.
  • (2/5)
    When dentist Ellis Skinner suddenly dies at the age of 34, his wife, Noni, goes into a depression and pretty much stays in her bedroom for three years--a period that her four children refer to as The Pause. Renee, Caroline, Joe, and Fiona are left to their own devices and learn to take care of one another. But as adults, things start to fall apart. Renee, psychologically wounded by a near-rape experience, avoids men and motherhood while second sister Caroline drops out of college to marry her high school sweetheart. Joe, the only boy, seems to be a golden child, winning a baseball scholarship to a prestigious school--until alcohol and drugs get him expelled. Fiona, the youngest, writes a popular blog, The Last Romantic, that details the failings of the many men she sleeps with, but in time she becomes a renowned poet. They go through the usual love/hate phases that most siblings do, often spurred by jealousy but sometimes just by being disappointed in one another. In other words, the story is what I would consider a soap opera, plain and simple.For some reason, Conklin chooses to start the book in 2079, when the only one left is Fiona--and there is some kind of climate crisis shaking the world. When I started reading, my first thought was, "Oh, no, not another dystopian novel!" (I am not a fan. of the genre.) But no, this seems to have been thrown in for little or no reason and has little or nothing to do with the story. The power grid goes down while the aged Fiona is giving a poetry reading--a device that seems stuck in as a way of allowing a young woman in the audience named Luna to come to her aid. Oh, there was another Luna, years ago, who looked just like this Luna, down to the mole on her cheek. That Luna apparently inspired Fiona's first successful poetry collection, and this Luna was apparently named for her by a mother who loved the book. None of this makes much sense until much, much later, and even in retrospect, it's still an awkward beginning. We keep hearing about Fiona the Famous Poet, yet we never get a glimpse of her poetry in the entire novel. And I'm still left wondering why Conklin inserted the environmental business, which really had nothing to do with the story. Fiona works for an environmental group--but we never hear anything about her work or the group's mission.Overall, this plot is clunky, and at times it's overly contrived, especially in the last quarter, when each of the Skinners' lives (including mom Noni) makes a 180 for no apparent reason at all. Then they all die. The plot moves back and forth through time--sometimes confusingly--and from one character's point of view to another's. There's also considerable sloppiness in facts and research. Just to mention one: in 1982, teenaged Fiona has a job cutting up veggies at a diner, for which she is paid $8/hour. What? It's 2019, and many Americans are still fighting for an $8/hour wage!I finished this novel in about three days--not because I was engrossed in the story, but because I was bored and began to skim it. I doubt that I will seek out another book by this author.
  • (3/5)
    A parent dies, a parent retreats and the children are left to fend for themselves. Damaged psyches are left to fester and it gets uglier and more uncomfortable.The book captured my intention and held it until it didn’t. I thought the writing was masterful and while the storyline was weak and somewhat confusing it all unraveled for me when the main character starts and explains her blog. Game over for me. At that point I lost interest but I plowed through to the end.There could have been so much to care about but the real and the abstract and the emotions and justifications were all over the place. Thank you LibraryThing and William Morrow for a copy.
  • (5/5)
    I love a good family saga and The Last Romantics was one of the best I have read it a long time. It seems most sagas are historical, but this one was more contemporary because it was told by Fiona from 2079 looking back on her life, so most of the story took place in the late 70s through about 2010. It helps that those were memorable years for me as well. The story is primarily about three sisters and a brother, all with different personalities, so I believe most readers will be able to identify with one of the characters. This was one book I didn't want to end.
  • (5/5)
    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.
  • (3/5)
    The Last Romantics opens with a sequence that inspires reading on to solve the mystery of women named Luna.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?"
  • (4/5)
    I enjoyed this book. The characters were believable. It's well-written. There were a few problems. One was the way it is framed as if it's being told from a vantage point many years from now when all sorts of things are going wrong in civilization but we are never told exactly what those things are and people seem to do most things exactly the same way they do things now.That's a minor quibble though, as the story is mostly set in the past.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.
  • (4/5)
    This is a family saga about four siblings. They lose their father at a relatively young age and during the period immediately afterward, where their mother tunes out for a while (a period they refer to as "The Pause"), they form a special sibling bond which, unbeknownst to them at the time, affects their relationship with each other throughout the years. Joe, the only male sibling, pulls them together in a special way which none of them really realize or appreciate at the time. As they advance through adulthood and each make their own life choices, they diverge and are brought back together by an unexpected tragedy. 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.
  • (4/5)
    I loved this book. Could relate to the characters. I thought the descriptions of "The Pause" were excellent. A couple jaw-dropping moments mixed into very believable, interesting, real life. Up-to-date & modern and yet down to earth. Good storytelling. A very good read. Well done, Tara Conklin.
  • (4/5)
    This was an early review book and I'm not exactly sure how I feel about it. I really liked The House Girl but this was much different from that novel. For many pages I was wondering where the story was going and why I should care about the characters. It grabbed me immediately by the first chapter being set in 2079. There were comments that allowed the reader to think that something terrible may have happened but there is never much explanation as to what had happened or was happened. A throw-away line that the 2nd Amendment "hadn't made it" but nothing more. I think the author wanted to put a lot in the book but then ran out of space. By page 168 I was wondering why I was still reading. The last 80 pages of the book were the best but I felt the author was just trying to wrap up the story. There were also a few chapters where I wasn't certain which sister was speaking and would have to go back and try to figure it out. I just think this book could have been so much more than it was.
  • (5/5)
    Even though the story frame was a bit clunky, I truly enjoyed this book. The Last Romantics is a well written look at the bonds between family members, warts and all. The characters, all realistically flawed, were very believable/relatable. As for the end of the novel - WOW. Just WOW. I highly recommend Tara Conklin's latest work.
  • (4/5)
    There are events in life that shape people, forge them, become an integral piece of who they are. Sometimes these events are seemingly insignificant and other times they are clearly big, life-changing occasions. In Tara Conklin's newest novel, The Last Romantics, two of these huge, defining events happen back to back, leading inexorably toward an outcome and an ending that feels fated, determined by the past and written from the beginning.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.
  • (5/5)
    Wow, I really enjoyed this book. It's beautifully written and the characters and wonderfully drawn. It was compelling and when I put it down I found myself trying to squeeze moments out of my day to read more of it. The book focuses on the different responses siblings have to the loss of a parent and another loss later in their lives. It captures how even loving families can struggle in the face of life's hardships.
  • (3/5)
    Hidden in this novel is a page-turning dysfunctional family tale (and I love these), but the framework and too many subplots makes it a bit ungainly. The novel begins in 2079 where a 102 year old poet, Fiona Skinner, living in a world beset by climate change issues is giving a lecture about her body of work. She begins to tell the story of her family, her father passes suddenly when she is young and her mother, seeped in depression during a period she and her siblings call The Pause, the four Skinner children are left to fend for themselves. The oldest, Renee carries the burden of parenting her siblings, becomes an ambitious and hard driving physician. The second daughter, Caroline, marries the boy next door, devotes her life to her husband and family and in middle age decides to live for herself, divorcing and striking out; Joe, the only boy, is a golden child in his youth but there are episodes that forewarn possible mental health issues. A Wall Street phenom, he succumbs to the lure of drugs and money and his NYC career downfall leads him to move to Miami where the culmination of the story takes place. Finally, Fiona, the youngest recounts her youth and realizes in her maturity that her point of view on events as they happened were both naive and sheltered from hard truths. The plot moved along well but the framework of a young woman asking a question at a lecture, the climate calamitous future and several meandering tendrils of story drive the plot toward the end of the narrative, but not necessarily a toward a satisfying conclusion. I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher via LibraryThing's early reviewer program in exchange for an honest review. Thanks!
  • (5/5)
    This was an amazing family saga - beautifully written, realistic, touching and engaging. It spans almost 100 years in the lives of the Skinner siblings - Renee, Caroline, Joe and Fiona. It follows them from the death of their father as young children into adolescence and adulthood. It is about the relationships between the siblings as well as their relationship with their mother and as they grow into adulthood, their significant others as well. I highly recommend this book.
  • (4/5)
    The book opens with a 102 year old poetess giving a reading in 2079, so I was expecting some kind of science fiction, which I wouldn’t have wanted to read. A few pages in though the author starts answering questions about her life, and most of the book is about the relationship among the four siblings, the roles they played in a difficult childhood with an absentee mother and how they reacted against those roles once they left home, but eventually came together again as best friends in middle age. The four main characters are very believable, but also the plot, loosely based on finding a missing woman, keeps moving forward so it’s hard to put down.
  • (4/5)
    Thank you William Morrow Books and author Tara Conklin for the opportunity to read and review The Last Romantics prior to its February 19, 2019 release. "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.
  • (4/5)
    The Last Romantics was a good book. It did throw me for a bit when it opened with the year being 2079. I enjoyed reading about the relationships between the four siblings starting in childhood and continuing as they were adults. I also liked that it was broken down into different sections and that the years were listed where the events took place. The book was well-paced and I enjoyed reading it.
  • (5/5)
    This book owned me. Plain and simple.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.