The Last Romantics
By Tara Conklin
The Last Romantics is a story “about love, true love. Imperfect, wretched, weak love….” (p. 352) It is the story of 4 siblings – Renee, Caroline, Joe, and Fiona Skinner – who grew up with a difficult childhood, marked by tragedy. Their father dies; their mother withdraws for years in a period the children call The Pause, during which, they fend for themselves. But they all get through it and grow up, each seeking love and companionship, and each finding that in their own unique way. But like their childhood, the siblings’ early adulthood years are marked by tragedy – the death of Joe. For the sisters, The Pause and Joe’s Death would be defining moments in their lives, up until the end.
Review: I have a lot of mixed feelings on this one, so this review is going to be formatted a little differently than usual. I did read the book in its entirety, and I wouldn’t say that it was a struggle… but I’m also not sure I’d say that I enjoyed the book…
- No loose ends: The book pretty much ran from childhood to adulthood, with the life of each character tied up in a neat little bow of a few paragraphs. For me, this one is a bit of a pro and a con – sometimes it’s nice to let the reader imagine what happens with the characters after the end of the story – but in general, I felt that the book was wrapped up nicely.
- The character struggles are real. Nobody is perfect and love isn’t perfect. So often, it’s hard to find oneself amidst life’s pressures and influences. Especially as children, the siblings fight to make a life for themselves, and then the fight (and continue to fight – because love is work) for love.
- The childhood bond between siblings is beautiful and inspiring, the sort of relationship that one wants with their own siblings (although not a relationship built on hardships).
- The characters weren’t particularly likable. When they were younger, they seemed fairly resilient. They didn’t have an easy childhood, so there was some empathy for them. But as adults, they weren’t particularly likable. They were selfish and self-absorbed, a couple battled depression at one point or another, were sometimes cruel… There was no character I really felt connected with or wanted to champion.
- I got tired of the the lives of all 3 sisters being shaped so strongly by the events of their childhood and the death of their brother. I’m not trying to downplay the traumatic events, but at some point, you kind of want the characters to cope and heal, to find comfort in something or someone else, and to move on a bit.
- I don’t buy into the format of the book. The story of the Skinner siblings is told through the eyes of 2079 Fiona Skinner, as written in her famous work, The Love Poem. This weird dystopian setting just seemed irrelevant and unnecessary to the actual story. It didn’t add anything, and that was the one part that wasn’t tied up into a nice neat bow at the end.
For me overall, the cons outweighed the pros in this book. If you look at Goodreads, there’s a lot of people that really liked this one (including my mother), but I have to say, I don’t think it was my cup of tea.
Did you read it? What did you think of it? Leave me a comment and let me know!