The Last Romantic by Tara Conklin became my second read of 2021, and incidentally, it is the author’s second published novel.
She is a new author for me, but this book has good reviews, and the cover was pleasant enough, so I began reading it.
My first book of 2021, Havenfall by Sara Holland was from the fantasy genre, so I was glad I picked something from contemporary fiction.
The book begins in the year 2079 where Fiona Skinner, a 102 years old poetess, is having a sort of meet-and-greet with her fans.
She is asked about a name mentioned in one of her poems, Luna, which makes her go down memory lane, and the story unfolds.
What Took Me in About the Book The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin?
The Unknown Identity of the Women Luna Mentioned in Fiona’s Last Poem
The first major thing that happens in the book is the question regarding the identity of a woman named Luna in a poem written by Fiona. The persistence of the questioner and Fiona’s hesitance in answering it are intriguing.
We are no alien to mysterious mentions in poems. There are the famous Lucy poems written by William Wordsworth and the various theories about the real identity of Lucy even today.
I hoped something similar to unfold in this book, and I guess that set me up for a huge disappointment.
The Childhood of the Four Siblings: Renee, Caroline, Fiona, and Joe
This is the best part of the book, even though it is not even remotely related to the mystery of the Luna character.
It starts when Fiona is just 4 years and 8 months old, and her father dies suddenly. The first four chapters describe how she and her siblings, Renee, Caroline, and Joe, and their mother deal with the loss of their father.
The eldest of all the siblings is Caroline, only 11 years old at the time, who handles most of the responsibility, while the mother, whom they all call Noni, enters a strange state of trauma and depression, which the children call “The pause.”
I say this is the best part of the book, but there were times when I had goosebumps on my skin because I was so scared about these 4 young kids with no adult to look after them.
The children grow, play, and learn in their ways, while the mother is away, sucked in the grief they call “The Pause”, which lasts for about 3 years give or take in Renee’s words.
“The Pause” ends only when their aunt comes to live with them and handles all the responsibility of the kids.
The Beauty of the Words of the Entire Book
I tell you one thing, Tara Conklin knows her words. The book flows in such a beautiful way, that it filled my heart with sadness with every word I read. The way the book is written touches my heart, and the sadness stays with me for a long while even after I finish reading the book.
The way the words are stringed together makes the Last Romantics by Tara Conklin a very quotable book.
What does Not Work for Me about the Book Last Romantic by Tara Conklin?
The Adult Life of the Four Skinner Siblings
When they are children, all of them have their fair share of responsibilities. And the death of their father and the absence of their mother in their crucial growing years couldn’t have been very conducive for their emotional stability.
But all the siblings do things that are downright mean and evil at times, and their childhood is given as a justification, which comes up off as a flimsy excuse many times.
Somehow the Skinner siblings simply fail at adulting when it matters the most.
Perhaps that is why they have a different appeal and energy.
A Twisted Take on Feminism
After “the Pause” ends, the Skinner Mother Noni starts facing reality and calling herself and her daughters feminist, which was great.
I liked how she was getting a job and finally shouldering the responsibilities that the children took while she was dealing with her grief for more than 3 years.
I like how she advised the girls to have their jobs and make their money, I am all for empowering women.
But at the same time, Noni does not approve of Caroline’s interest in her boyfriend, and her more feminine interests such as dressing up, marrying, or staying at home with her kids.
This continues throughout the book where Noni only appreciates the children who follow her idea of feminism, so much so that Caroline feels ashamed of herself, of her marriage and her children.
Feminism does not encourage making another woman ashamed of her choices just because they are different from an individual’s idea of feminism.
The So-Called Big Reveal About The Identity of Luna
By the time I reached the last chapters of the book, I was no longer interested in knowing about Luna. I was just sad as if the book had dementors in it.
The revelation about Luna’s identity does nothing for me, or for the plot to be honest. I feel that this book could have started without the unnecessary buzz around the identity of Luna and it would have worked perfectly.
My Final Thoughts About the Last Romantics by Tara Conklin
When I decided to read this book, I expected it to be different. The whole Luna thing only disappointed me, like the last season of the Game of Thrones show.
The writing is beautiful, and the childhood section is a delight to read, but sadly it ends with chapter 4 of the book.
It is well-written and keeps me interested, I feel connected and invested in the relationship between the four siblings, but it makes me increasingly sad as I read.
My sadness may be a result of having siblings, and other readers may feel differently about it.
I will not read it again but might listen to a chapter or two on some melancholy winter evening.