The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin
Thank you to the publisher for my free copy!
I read The Last Romantics in just a few days, once I started the story I was completely swept up into the lives of the Skinner siblings and couldn't put it down. Something about the writing (which I loved) and the way the story moves really caught my attention right off the bat. It has been a while since I picked up a story like this, one that spans decades and explores relationships, love, secrets and pain within a family.
"The love of your life is always the one you have betrayed the most. The love that defines you is the one upon whom you once turned your back." p. 78
What I loved about The Last Romantics was, although Fiona is clearly the one guiding the story along, I felt equally attached to and invested in the stories of each of the other siblings. This can be hard to achieve in such a long reaching story and with so many other important players. Conklin's masterful writing made the transition between characters feel fluid and natural.
I also loved how easy it was to connect with the story on a personal level. As the oldest of four siblings, all grown up now, it was a unique experience relating to some of the emotional struggles and expectations between the Skinner siblings. We carry so much of what happens in our childhoods or the roles we play as children (oldest, middle child, baby, spoiled one, responsible one, etc.) into adulthood I think without often realizing it. And it can come out easily when interacting with the same siblings- all grown up but still fulfilling some of those same roles. I feel like Conklin did an amazing job portraying this, especially as the sisters finally break apart for a few years and each of them is finally able to change and grow without the others around.
A story that is able to span from childhood to adulthood and ultimately the end of life and do it WELL is I think a true gem. The Last Romantics left me feeling completely satisfied with the lives of the Skinner siblings, with those in relationships with them and those affected by their love. Seeing their stories play through to the end was a treat that I don't find in a lot of stories.
And then there is that last page. I've read it three times, to fully grasp the magnitude of Conklin's words and how it so eloquently sums up the lives of these characters but I think ourselves as well, the choices we make every day because of love.
"...it is about real love, true love. ...it is about the negotiations we undertake with ourselves in the name of love. Every day we struggle to decide what to give away and what to keep, but every day we make that calculation and we live with the results." p.352