Joyce S. (Tyrone, GA)
This book was an interesting incite into the Oxford campus and the differences in how things are done as well as the language and British kind of class divisions. I thought it rather lacking in a story line, plot and even anything other than the passage of time driving it forward. Was almost relieved when it ended. It read more like a diary where the writer could even stay on a timelinemore than anything else.
Daniel A. (Naugatuck, CT)
The Last Enchantments
I liked this book with reservations; it is well written but the story is not my cup of tea. I felt like I was not the target audience, and anyone who embraces the genre of romance novels will absolutely love this book.
I think I would enjoy the author's previous works much more.
M. W. (Issaquah, WA)
This novel was, for me, a huge disappointment. Student life at Oxford was depicted as a welter of booze, drugs, and promiscuity; the unlikeable characters were vacillating, pretentious, and insincere. The plot meandered along, with frequent insertions about past events to enable the hapless reader to try to catch up. (And why include the story of the main character's childhood in Chapter 8?)
Rare inclusions of accounts of seminars or tutorials were couched in arcane vocabulary familiar only to pedants, and reminiscent of an A. S. Byatt lecture this reviewer attended, which rendered an entire audience paralyzed into silence, too stunned to ask any questions. Sprinkled throughout the novel were countless
Britishisms which gave the impression that the author must have kept a notebook always at hand to jot down amusing or unfamiliar turns of phrase. Lists of interesting places to see (many of them pubs) were larded throughout, imparting the feeling that these were included to bulk things up. (Buy a good guidebook instead, folks.)
Last but not least: in the late 1940s an eminent English author named Robert Liddell, a close friend of Olivia Manning, Barbara Pym, and Ivy Compton-Burnett, wrote an "Oxford novel" titled "The Last Enchantments." This was regarded as an excellent fictionalized account of Oxford as it was then, and was reprinted in the 1990s.
Finch's version is a poor replacement. In his book, the dreaming spires have become nightmarish indeed.
Sherilyn R. (Bountiful, UT)
Truly Enchanting Novel
An enchanting book that captures the exquisite period between college and true adulthood. The time when every college student dreams of being free, of being able to explore who they really are and what they really want, of being independent without the encumbrances of being adult.
Charles Finch sets the pace as we journey along with young William Baker as he experiences a year at Oxford. With a slow seductive rhythm we come to understand William and the landscape that was and is Oxford.
This is a sensitive, intense, thoroughly charming book full of one young man's longing and desire that is metaphor for us all. I so wanted to visit Oxford again after reading this book.
Nan G. (Mazomanie, WI)
I wanted to like this story of a young man experiencing a world of enchantment at Oxford. The Secret History by Donna Tartt and A Separate Peace by John Knowles are 2 of my favorite novels and I always make room on the bookshelf for any book even vaguely reminiscent of the "coming of age in school" genre. Sadly, The Last Enchantments, while well-written, did not hold my interest.
What was wrong: the characters (with one exception) were unlikable, some of them were stereotypical and most came across as shallow. What was right: the setting. Finch draws a vivid and loving picture of Oxford. The combination of such a luminous setting with unlikable characters was jarring.
It is very possible that younger readers (20-30) may find the characters less irritating than I did and therefore the novel itself more enjoyable. Since this is so different from Finch's previous works it will not keep me from reading him in the future but this one is not one I can recommend without reservation.
Barbara C. (Fountain Hills, AZ)
Not Very Enchanting
Coming of age stories have been done so often and so well, this one leaves much to be desired. The characters did not speak to me and I felt were not well developed. The story jumped from one to another, and I felt no connection or sympathy toward any of them. I resented the political intrusions into the story and the Hate Bush theme was distasteful. If I wanted a leftist tirade I could watch Rachael Madow. I also got tired of the gratuitous language throughout. I suppose the author thinks F fills in for words when others fail. Do you think 20 somethings use this word so fluently? The saving grace of this book is the colorful descriptions of Oxford. Sorry, this book just did not do it for me. With all the other books out there, I felt I was wasting my time reading about shallow characters who spent most of their times jumping into bed with one another.
Anne (Austin, TX)
The Last Enchantments by Charles Finch
Will Baker leaves NYC and his fiance to spend a year at Oxford for grad school. What ensues is a telling of Will's personal life. He makes friends, meets women, goes to parties and bars and from all indications does very little studying. This is the ultimate coming of age story and Will experiences all the typical flings, traumas, and hangovers.
I didn't dislike the book, thought it was extremely well written, and in fact have gathered some of Finch's other titles to read next. The Last Enchantments is probably aimed at a 20-something reader who would probably enjoy it a great deal more than I.