The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin

Rating: 5/5


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.

Why I Read It

This arc was sent to me by William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins. But, of course, the decision to actively read the book was my own!

My Thoughts

It should be noted first and foremost that I finished this book about 2 weeks ago but have not written a review yet because I was trying to think of reasons to knock its rating down to a 4.5. Why? Because I feel like I give out 5s too easily, and in 2019 I want to start being more stingy with them. I want to find SOMETHING to complain about in books, because I think that’s a little more realistic.

Not that I never have anything to complain about when it comes to books. I think I always kind of do, but I think about all the good things that outweigh the bad and then give books a better rating too easily. I WANT to give books good ratings, but I think a 5 needs to be handed over gently and cautiously.

That being said, this book wholeheartedly deserves this rating. Absolutely. Without a doubt. No one can change my mind on this.

My attention was captured from the very beginning. The childhood of the children was interesting and somewhat similar to that of my own, despite the time difference. The characters all have such different qualities, the characterization is amazing. This isn’t a book where every character feels like the same person, where it gets sort of muddy when we try to remember which character is being talked about at the time. It’s very clear.

I love the time jumps. There aren’t a lot of them, so it’s not too much or too confusing. The jumps take us to the future, when our main character Fiona is living in 2079. There are things that happen that will make you wonder where we will be as a country at this point in the future. It’s enough to make you consider this, consider the state of politics right now and where it could take us, but not enough to take control over the entire story. It just makes you wonder, and frankly it’s just realistic. The addition of the sirens in the future help to remind us that we aren’t in the present. That’s all I’ll say about the sirens, because I don’t think it’s something that should be lingered on for too long. They aren’t lingered on in the story, and I don’t want to spoil what I think they might mean.

The voice in this book is intriguing. We are inside Fiona’s head, getting her point of view, but we get inside the siblings’ heads and get their points of view as well, but their points of view are told through Fiona. As if she was there for everything in the book, even the events she obviously couldn’t have been there during and therefore would have no way of knowing what happened. This leads me to see Fiona as an unreliable narrator, which is my favorite type of narrator. She’s a writer, a poet, in this book and this role of playing the unreliable narrator definitely fits her character. I absolutely love that this creative choice was made.

I won’t say too much more about Fiona or her relation to the title of the book, because I found that fun to experience on my own so I want others to as well. But I will say, given her character and the fact that she narrates everything, even the impossible, this book feels like we are just in one of her stories. I’ve never read anything like this.

I sped through this book, especially after chapter 16. From the first paragraph of that chapter and on, I cried on and off VERY frequently. There were sad parts before this chapter, sure, but for some reason from this page on everything just hit differently and I was a teary mess. So consider this a warning, I guess.

Typically, I’m not a fan of the put-a-bow-on-it-and-put-it-away ending. I prefer something messy, something that makes me wonder, that leaves me thinking. This book did both. Without going into too much detail, I’ll say that Fiona provided us with closure for every character mentioned in the book while also leaving us with something to think about after we shut the book and sit back in our beds and sigh with that feeling you have after a really good read.

And lastly, one of the most important things I wanted to mention that I almost forgot to add. I think this book is timeless.

I want to throw my laptop and scream right now because the example book I want to mention is not with me, and I cannot think of its name or who wrote it or find it online. It’s a book I bought at Target in middle school, and it’s in two parts. The first part is of two sisters whose parents die in a plane crash. We see the funeral and experience the sisters being separated, living with different people because they had different fathers. (Stay with me, I swear this is relevant.) In the second part of the book, the sisters are now older and one lives in NYC and experiences 9/11 and it leads to the sisters coming back together somehow. To be honest, I still haven’t finished the book and I haven’t tried to in years.

When I tried to read the book in middle school, I only really cared about the first part, about the sisters. Gradually as I have read the book throughout the years, I have read further and further through it and understood different things about it. Each time I pick up the book I take something new away from it and appreciate something different about it. It’s one of my favorite books for this reason.

This is how I feel about this book, The Last Romantics. I think it is timeless, and I think every time you pick up this book you will take something new from it. I know I will. And I plan on keeping it on my shelf for the rest of eternity, because books like this are rare. Of course there are so many books I just enjoy because they’re fun, but books like this are important and hard to find so when we come across one we need to grab it and read it a million times and then keep reading it. And, hell, pass it on the future generations. Because it’s damn good, and everyone needs to read it.

If you’re reading this review, even if you’re not reading this review, you need to read this book. It’s a Shelf Essential.

That’s all I’ve got for today, my bookish friends! Let me know if you plan on picking this one up, or if you’ve already read it – I’ve noticed a few other people I follow on Instagram and Twitter have received the arc as well, and I’d love to read your thoughts on it!

Also, quickly – if any of you ever decide to read a book because I’ve reviewed it or recommended it or it popped up on one of my socials, let me know! Even if you don’t write a review on it, let me know if I’m ever the reason you decided to read something! That seems so cool, and I’d love to hear thoughts other people have on things I’ve talked about.

Until next time!

xoxo, Hayden

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