After graduating from Yale, William Baker, scion of an old line patrician family, goes to work in presidential politics. But when the campaign into which he's poured his heart ends in disappointment, he decides to leave New York and his devoted girlfriend behind for a year of study at Oxford.
Will expects nothing more than a year off before resuming the comfortable life he's always known, but he's soon caught up in a whirlwind of unexpected friendships and romantic entanglements that threaten his safe plans. As he explores the heady social world of Oxford, he becomes fast friends with Tom, his snobbish but affable flat mate; Anil, an Indian economist with a deep love for gangster rap; Anneliese, a German historian obsessed with photography; and Timmo, whose chief ambition is to become a reality television star. What he's least prepared for is Sophie, a witty, beautiful and enigmatic woman who makes him question everything he knows about himself.
For readers who made a classic of Richard Yates's A Good School, Charles Finch's The Last Enchantments is a sweeping novel about love and loss that redefines what it means to grow up as an American in the twenty-first century.
"Starred Review. A vividly evocative love letter to his alma mater, Finch's first contemporary novel (following his acclaimed historical Victorian mysteries starring MP Charles Lenox) often reads less like fiction than as memoir, and will be enjoyed by readers of both." - Library Journal
"Despite his political savvy, Will proves emotionally immature, falling in and out of love quickly and then stewing in self-pity. His lovesAlison, Jess, and Sophiecome across as charming young women who deserve better." - Publishers Weekly
"A portrait of university life that's contemplative and nostalgic." - Kirkus
"Compelling ... William Baker's voice, vividly established in the opening line, is the most striking of this novel's many virtues." - Ron Rash, New York Times bestselling author of Serena
"Irresistible ...The novel bursts with intelligence and wit as Charles Finch brilliantly examines our most secret longings and desires... The Last Enchantments casts an enduring spell." - Amber Dermont, author of The Starboard Sea>
"A witty, wonderful book about that tender age between college and true adulthood. Charles Finch's sensitive, lyrical and heartfelt writing charms to the very last page." - Cristina Alger, author of The Darlings
"Intense, fast-paced, psychologically intriguing, and wonderfully written, Will finds not only Sophie, the complicated, captivating woman who takes his heart and an unsettling group of friends, but over the course of a disturbing and entertaining year, he finds himself in surprising ways." - Susan Richards Shreve, author of You Are the Love of my Life
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Rated of 5
Kat F. (Palatine, IL)
Too old for this
At 55 years old, it is quite possible I am simply too old to understand or have any empathy for this character and his friends. I definitely did not care about them in any way. The character goes from the insulated world of Yale to the insulated world of a political campaign back to the insulated world of Oxford University. Will and his friends feel they know of the world. Oh please. These self-indulgent, spoiled babies know nothing of real life and when it comes, it's going to hit them hard. Wouldn't bet they will be able to handle it, despite their prestigious education.
When I start reading a book, I am always hopeful that I will be able to develop, at the very least, an understanding of the main character(s). Unfortunately, this did not happen for me. This book just irritated. I wanted to slap Will and his friends. I had the same feeling of wasting my time that I did after reading Catcher in the Rye a few years ago with my book club.
Rated of 5
Kay D. (Strongsville, OH)
The Last Enchantments - Generated Mixed Feelings
I found The Last Enchantments to be an interesting book, both liking and disliking elements. Overall, I would rate it 4 out of 5. The book did keep me interested enough in the characters to keep reading until the end, even when I found them shallow at times. I believe the shallowness was more the characters' behaviors, not the writing or the character development. Personally, I had a hard time identifying with the lack of responsibility of most of the characters. I found the consistent bending of the truth a bit unsettling.
During the year that the book covers, it focuses on a group of grad students at Oxford. The diversity of the group was well done and gave some perspectives from several backgrounds. The main character was from America and since the narrative was from his perspective it was often colored by that. In addition, the main character had a leaning towards political work, and therefore was colored by his political beliefs. I felt these sometimes got in the way of the story and became more of a political statement than necessary.
Overall, an interesting read and I generally liked the writing.
Rated of 5
Karen B. (Pittsburgh, PA)
Collegiate Coming-of-Age Disappoints
The setting of Oxford outshines both the characters and plot of this novel. Liked Finch's writing style and may be interested in picking up his next effort. But, must say that this fell short of both my expectations and those books currently in my "To-Be-Read" pile.
Rated of 5
Kristen H. (Hagerstown, MD)
Education in life
The author captured the essence of going to college and experiencing life. The title summed it up wonderfully. The experiences that Will went through in England, after already starting a life with Alison. Also, the fact that he had a job working in politics and then to go across the ocean to study abroad. I enjoyed the author's style of writing. This book is a very enjoyable read. I would definitely recommend this book to a book club.
Rated of 5
Sherrill B. (Columbia City, IN)
I didn't like this book. There wasn't any excitement or plot, just mostly descriptions of Oxford's campus. I was disappointed.
Rated of 5
Viqui G. (State College, PA)
The Last Enchantments
Certainly this novel had some very appealing themes: academic stimulation, freedom to choose when to work and when to relax, escapism and of especially friendship. Will Baker, the protagonist, is immersed in an academic environment studying literature, a topic that he relishes. The author gives us great detail about Will's excitement in studying and learning. He is able to research and write intensely on his own schedule and is also able to socialize, drink, party and have deep involvements with his new Oxford friends and lovers whenever he chooses. Charles Finch does a magnificent job of conveying a young man's daily academic life, exuberant friendship with housemates along with his angst of deep and complicated love for Sophie. The reader is treated to great discussions of the complexity of human interactions. However, the novel is, in the end, a slice of life. The novel tells us of one year in a young American man's life in Oxford, England between 2004-2005. Although the writing was quite good, the descriptions were often long winded. The details of Will's daily life became uninteresting after 2/3 of the novel because there was no significant change or revelation into how the year transformed him. The reader gets the feeling that Will shall forever see the pinnacle of his life be the year at Oxford, and frankly, it really isn't that interesting to the rest of us.
Charles Finch is the author of seven Charles Lenox mystery novels, including the forthcoming An Old Betrayal. His first standalone novel, The Last Enchantments, about a group of students at Oxford University, will be published in January of 2014. Visit him at facebook.com/charlesfinchauthor or twitter.com/charlesfinch!
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