Depression, family bonds, sex, nothing is off-limits in this refreshingly honest novel.
Tara Conklin’s novel The Last Romantics is so honest at times that it hurts.
A poet sits down in front of an audience at a book reading and remembers her life. Recalling family drama, let downs, letting people down, sexuality, and struggling with what people might think about her writing.
People seem to think that “female sex appeal was dangerous. Sexual desire was something expressable exclusively by men.”
At this moment, our heroine is thinking about how porn is always on a high shelf and, as she puts it, out of the reach of children and women. She notes that her friends, fathers, and male teachers all reach for that high shelf and she wonders “where is my high shelf? And what wonders would I find there?”
I wonder the same. We should all wonder the same.
The Last Romantics also dives deeply into depression and the impact it has on family members. This surfaces some of the most beautiful and poignant pieces of writing from Conklin.
“I believe now that certain events are inevitable. Not in a fateful way, for I have never had faith in anything but myself, but in the way of human nature. Some people will choose again and again to destroy what it is they value most.”
We have all met that person. The one with all the potential and charisma – and also with an unconscious need to sabotage the things and relationships they love most. Shoot, maybe we have all been that person during a fit of depression.
Diving into that thought process is, perhaps, what inspired Conklin to have Fiona say this:
“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.”
An interesting read. I definitely recommend this one.
Writers! Terribly cliched, I know, but this is a book that all writers who harbor fears of unleashing honest prose should read.
Also, anyone who has dealt with mental illness will really relate to The Last Romantics.
A fellow reader introduced The Last Romantics to me. Someone who I respect very much and who has yet to let me down with a book recommendation. So, I didn’t hesitate and picked up the novel within a week of receiving the recommendation. (Technically, I pressed play within a week, listening to Conklin’s novel narrated on Audible by Cassandra Campbell.)
It was fitting timing for me since the main character, Fiona, is a writer who starts out with a blog. And since, like me, all of the characters are wrestling with the loss of a loved one.
Also, since the main character’s blog is a sex blog, Fiona wrestles with the stigma surrounding female sexuality. This is interesting to me because as I was reading the book, I was writing my first post (on Medium) about dating after losing my partner to cancer.
All of the nerves I was feeling about putting myself out there and about possibly offending people are dealt with in The Last Romantics quite a bit.
Tara Conklin is a writer and former lawyer whose first novel, The House Girl, was a New York Times bestseller, #1 IndieNext pick, Target book club pick and has been translated into eight languages. Her second novel, The Last Romantics was published in February 2019 to wide acclaim. An instant New York Times bestseller, The Last Romantics was a Barnes & Noble Book Club Pick, IndieNext Pick, and was selected by Jenna Bush Hager as the inaugural read for The Today Show Book Club.
Before turning to fiction, Tara worked for an international human rights organization and at corporate law firms in London and New York. She was born in St. Croix, US Virgin Islands, and grew up in western Massachusetts. She holds a BA in history from Yale University, a JD from NYU School of Law, and a Master of Law and Diplomacy from the Fletcher School at Tufts University. Tara now lives in Seattle with her family where she writes, teaches, and works with private clients on manuscript development. She is also a sought-after speaker on a wide range of topics, including a writer’s life, work-life balance and mid-career pivots.
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