Norma R. (Secaucus, NJ)
Last Enchantments tells the of the journey of a group of friends from college to adulthood. Will Baker leaves the security of a job and a girlfriend in New York to study in Oxford for one year. The beauty of Oxford is stunning but life is not perfect. The group of friends are all struggling to find a place in the adult world. Bill falls in love with Sophie but both are in another relationship. Bill is yearning for an ideal life in Oxford - but it does not exist. I enjoyed this book because it told the universal story of growing up. Would recommend it for a book club.
Carolyn (Summerville, SC)
The Last Enchantments
This is a skillfully written novel that I liked, but didn't love. The main character, Will, is a likable fellow, a Yale graduate who spent a year working on a presidential campaign for a losing candidate. After the election, he applied for acceptance at Oxford University (unbeknownst to his longtime girlfriend), and when he was accepted he took off for England. This book is an accounting of that year. Will seemed rather immature to me, more like an undergrad, and I confess I needed a dictionary for a lengthy list of words he used ("involucre", "armature", et al). The descriptions of Oxford life were interesting, and I expect that a book club could have a lively discussion about what motivated some of these characters. For me, not a failure, but not a triumph, either.
Patty S. (Towson, MD)
Remembering My Twenties
One of the ways I know I like a book is by the way I feel when I finish it. I left Will Baker and his Oxford friends an hour ago and, still, I am thinking of my own feelings about my relationships at the age of 27 or 28. Do we all go through it - the questions, the longing, the imagining life veering in a different direction?
At first I didn't connect with Finch's writing style. It felt a bit pompous but as I kept with it, I began to see that it was part of Will's character. As more of his personality was revealed, I became more attached and the end came too soon.
Anyone who struggles with the big life decisions of what to be and who will be with them on the journey will enjoy this book.
Kate G. (Bronx, NY)
Escape to Oxford
The Last Enchantments is the story of Will Baker who flees New York for a year of studying George Orwell at Oxford. It really depicts well the insularity of academic life where daily routine and interactions can be disproportionally important compared to the outside world. The Oxford parts of the book were my favorites. I felt that the personal relationships were less successful. There was lots of falling in and out of love which felt very superficial. Writing a first person narrative, the author Charles Finch tries to make Will Baker the sympathetic hero, but at times Will was just very shallow and self absorbed.
Helen M. (Petaluma, CA)
I thought the book only average because it seems to be more of a remembrance of a time gone by than a compelling novel. The descriptions of Oxford are done so well that one can picture being there but the characters seem so self-absorbed. I could not find the heart of the book, only a glimpse of one year in a man's life. The question is, was he a different person at the end of the year? The Last Enchantments fell short for me.
Christine B. (St. Paul, MN)
Unfortunately although this was a coming of age story I don't think the protagonist ever came to age. The epilogue still kept him at loose ends. Although there weren't that many characters I felt we never really understood any of them and Will"s superficial attachments to women was annoying. I thought it was well written but lacked substance.
Judith M. (San Diego, CA)
Coming of Age Story
The Last Enchantments is a lyrically written novel of a young American spending a year at Oxford.
After graduating from Yale, William Baker goes to work in presidential politics. But when the campaign ends in disappointment he decides to leave for a year at Oxford.
This coming of age story is basically the inner monologue of the main character, Will, as he goes about his day interacting and thinking about his relationships both in Oxford and in the U.S.
I wanted to like the story as I have enjoyed reading Charles Finch's previous books. Oxford did come across as enchanting, the characters less so. Perhaps younger readers would enjoy it more.
One part I did find interesting was his description of working on a Presidential campaign and the draw of politics, even after the letdown of defeat.