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The Last Romantics
Cover of The Last Romantics
The Last Romantics
A Novel
Borrow Borrow

From the New York Times–bestselling 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 neighbourhood 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.

From the New York Times–bestselling 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 neighbourhood 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.

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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.
Reviews-
  • Publisher's Weekly

    November 5, 2018
    The accomplished second novel by the author of The House Girl throws a few unexpected twists into the well-worn story of evolving relationships among siblings. In the year 2079, 102-year-old poet Fiona Skinner looks back on a childhood marked by the sudden death of her father and the emotional withdrawal of her mother. During the years that her mother spent almost entirely in her room in their middle-class Connecticut neighborhood—a period that Fiona and her three siblings call the Pause—the siblings essentially raised each other, with observant, dreamy youngest child Fiona taking note of driven oldest daughter Renee, bubbly Caroline, and sweet, athletic Joe. As the years go on, the increasingly troubled Joe becomes the focus of both the novel and the attention of the other siblings. While Fiona—who works at a nonprofit and publishes a blog, sardonically titled The Last Romantic, wryly detailing her sexual experiences with one man after another—is the novel’s key voice, it expands out to peek into the minds of the others, including the mother who becomes a staunch feminist after emerging from her cocoon. Conklin’s plot avoids the predictable, and adds a new mystery each time an old one is solved, resulting in a clever novel.

  • Library Journal

    Conklin's sophomore effort (following The House Girl) recounts the complex but loving relationships of four siblings whose lives are irrevocably changed after their father dies unexpectedly when they're children, ranging in age from four to 11. Their mother sinks into depression and leaves them to fend for themselves for three years. Elder sister Renee shoulders the majority of the burden and takes this sense of responsibility into a career as a surgeon. Caroline seeks traditional marriage and motherhood at the expense of personal fulfillment, until later in life. Joe, the beloved only brother, becomes the focus of attention and promise for the whole family; his demons are ignored or dismissed until too late. Fiona, the youngest, eventually a celebrated poet, serves as the omniscient narrator. Another family tragedy leads them all to reexamine their lives and their relationships and the impact their early loss had on them. A somewhat implausible framing device, set in the year 2079, serves little purpose, except perhaps to explain the occasional anachronisms and time line inconsistencies that could have been caught by more careful editing. VERDICT Structural problems aside, the examination of trauma and its impact on family relationships is believably rendered. [See Prepub Alert, 7/31/18.]--Christine DeZelar-Tiedman, Univ. of Minnesota Libs., Minneapolis

    Copyright 1 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    November 15, 2018
    From the vantage point of a future ravaged by global warming, Conklin's (The House Girl, 2013) narrator describes the lingering consequences of the traumatic childhood she shared with her three siblings.In 2079, when the world is increasingly devastated by floods and other climate disasters, renowned 102-year-old poet Fiona Skinner 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. To answer the young woman's questions about the original Luna, Fiona tells the story of her childhood: After their father dies suddenly in 1981 and their mother, Noni, retreats to her bedroom in paralyzing depression, 4-year-old Fiona, 7-year-old Joe, 8-year-old Caroline, and 11-year-old Renee must fend for themselves for several years in what they call "the Pause" until Noni eventually reclaims her parental responsibility. The Pause creates a powerful bond among the children but affects each differently. Renee carries her take-charge sense of responsibility into a high-powered medical career but avoids having children of her own. Despite the disapproval of Noni, who has become wary of men and dependent womanhood, Caroline marries early and creates a perfect domestic world for her professor husband and their children without considering what world she wants for herself. Coddled, slightly clueless Fiona takes a mindless job at a nonprofit called ClimateSenseNow! (hint, hint) and writes a blog recounting each of her sexual experiences in numerical order. Passionately protective of his sisters, Joe is perhaps the most damaged. Despite early promise, his life skitters off the rails, redeemed only briefly by his love affair with the young bartender Luna before he suffers what Fiona calls his "accident." In reaction, the sisters re-examine their own priorities. A problem, especially in scenes involving Joe, is that Conklin sometimes describes private thoughts and feelings Fiona could not know, although according to the novel's framing device she is recounting her own memory of events.Basically a lukewarm turn-of-the-21st-century family melodrama despite the intermittent, never adequately integrated references to a future wracked by climate change.

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    December 1, 2018
    No family is perfect. No one truly knows what's happening behind closed doors unless they're there, a part of it from the beginning. Conklin (The House Girl, 2013) captures these truths with honesty and seeming ease in her second novel, a beautifully written story of four siblings' love for one another across their entire lives. Sibling relationships are exposed in their truest forms as Renee, Caroline, Joe, and Fiona Skinner fall in and out of love with each other over a lifetime. Bound together early in life by both blood and tragedy, they find solace and security in childhood summers spent at a neighborhood pond. These early memories shape their lives and future relationships, and when tragedy strikes again years later, the siblings are once again forced to either sink or swim together. Despite spanning almost a century, The Last Romantics never feels rushed. Conklin places readers in the center of the Skinner family, moving back and forth in time and allowing waves of emotion to slowly uncurl. Perfectly paced, affecting fiction.(Reprinted with permission of Booklist, copyright 2018, American Library Association.)

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A Novel
Tara Conklin
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