The Last Romantics: Book summary and reviews of The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin

The Last Romantics

by Tara Conklin

The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin X
The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' rating:

  • Published in USA  Feb 2019
    368 pages
    Genre: Novels

    Publication Information

  • Rate this book

Buy This Book

About this book

Book Summary

The New York Times bestselling author of The House Girl explores the lives of four siblings in this ambitious and absorbing novel in the vein of Commonwealth and The Interestings.

"The greatest works of poetry, what makes each of us a poet, are the stories we tell about ourselves. We create them out of family and blood and friends and love and hate and what we've read and watched and witnessed. Longing and regret, illness, broken bones, broken hearts, achievements, money won and lost, palm readings and visions. We tell these stories until we believe them."

When the renowned poet Fiona Skinner is asked about the inspiration behind her iconic work, The Love Poem, she tells her audience a story about her family and a betrayal that reverberates through time.

It begins in a big yellow house with a funeral, an iron poker, and a brief variation forever known as the Pause: a free and feral summer in a middle-class Connecticut town. Caught between the predictable life they once led and an uncertain future that stretches before them, the Skinner siblings - fierce Renee, sensitive Caroline, golden boy Joe and watchful Fiona - emerge from the Pause staunchly loyal and deeply connected.  Two decades later, the siblings find themselves once again confronted with a family crisis that tests the strength of these bonds and forces them to question the life choices they've made and ask what, exactly, they will do for love. 

A sweeping yet intimate epic about one American family, The Last Romantics is an unforgettable exploration of the ties that bind us together, the responsibilities we embrace and the duties we resent, and how we can lose - and sometimes rescue - the ones we love. A novel that pierces the heart and lingers in the mind, it is also a beautiful meditation on the power of stories - how they navigate us through difficult times, help us understand the past, and point the way toward our future.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!


Media Reviews

"Despite spanning almost a century, The Last Romantics never feels rushed. Conklin places readers in the center of the Skinner family, moving back and forth in time and allowing waves of emotion to slowly uncurl. Perfectly paced, affecting fiction." - Booklist

"Structural problems aside, the examination of trauma and its impact on family relationships is believably rendered." - Library Journal

"Tara Conklin is a generous writer who deftly brings us into the world of this fictional family, an engrossing and vivid place where I was happy to stay. The Last Romantics is a richly observed novel, both ambitious and welcoming." - Meg Wolitzer

"An intimate, soul-searing examination of a modern family and the ties that bind, for better or worse." - Stefanie Hargreaves, Shelf Awareness Galley Love of the Week

"A triumph of storytelling, an ambitious examination of the failures of love and how we, against all odds, find a way to survive.... A complex, resonant work that will reshape your understanding of family." - Kevin Wilson, author of The Family Fang

"All of the luxuriously spun characters in The Last Romantics, entwined via that impossible web we call family, unfold over their many years with the perfect balance of familiarity and wonder that makes turning their pages such a pleasure." - Laurie Frankel, New York Times bestselling author of This Is How It Always Is

"There's so much love and loss in this book that I read it with a box of tissues, laughing with astonishment through the tears. The kind of book you lose yourself in." - Lisa Gabriele, author of The Winters

This information about The Last Romantics shown above was first featured in "The BookBrowse Review" - BookBrowse's membership magazine, and in our weekly "Publishing This Week" newsletter. In most cases, the reviews are necessarily limited to those that were available to us ahead of publication. If you are the publisher or author and feel that the reviews shown do not properly reflect the range of media opinion now available, please send us a message with the mainstream media reviews that you would like to see added.

Any "Author Information" displayed below reflects the author's biography at the time this particular book was published.

Reader Reviews

Write your own review

Melissa S. (Rowland, NC)

So Many Voices
I found myself engrossed in Conklin's "The Last Romantics" from the first page. The setting with which the novel begins hooked. At first, the reader feels this novel will take on a futuristic society, when in fact, the future only comes back to the scene at the very end. The pages in between take the reader on a roller coaster of emotions as she/he travels through both the childhood and adult lives of four siblings who were forever changed by their father's untimely death and the ensuing "pause" the summer afterward. I found it hard to keep each character's life and "complications" straight because each sibling's childhood evolves into such a richly complicated adulthood. Conklin's ablility to develop characters of depth and real-life grit is abundantly evident in her second novel. She gives the reader everything he/she needs to feel as if they are living the life drama alongside the four siblings. My only negative in the entire novel is the futuristic aspect. I was left a little confused as to what was going on in society in 2079. Was it governmental unrest, wartime, civil fighting. The scenes seemed out of place and abrupt in such a touching story of family love and bonds. However, do not let that deter you from reading "The Last Romantics." Conklin's craft of character development left me in tears one minute and wanting to slam a door out of frustration the next - just like life in a real family.I have a feeling this second novel will be just as wildly successful as her first, "The House Girl."

Tracey S. (Largo, FL)

Great Story!
I had read "The House Girl" a while back and that is why I requested to review this book by Tara Conklin. It was not a disappointment at all! The story of the 4 siblings, their mother and how the death of their father affected them grabbed my attention after the first few pages! There was a lot of disfunction in their family but they all loved each other despite their tragedies. I highly recommend it!

Penny P. (Santa Barbara, CA)

The Last Romantics
I was excited to get this book because I loved The House Girl by the same author. I think this would create a good conversation for book clubs. I also think anyone who has siblings or who had a parent die or leave when they were young would identify. The author did a very good job of expressing the uncertainty children feel when losing a parent. The bond between siblings, both the good and the bad were an intergal part of the story. I loved the fact that the story was told over a period of years, starting when the children were young, picking up when they were adults. A family crisis once again calls for the siblings to come together. What I liked most about the story is that I think it is a realistic portrayal of families and relationships. I thought a very thoughtful and well written novel.

Connie L. (Bartlesville, OK)

The Last Romantics
I thoroughly enjoyed this beautifully-written novel, in which a renowned poet looks back on the trajectory of her life - the tragedy that traumatized her family when she was just a child, and the effects it had on each of the three siblings.

This is literary fiction. The characters are distinct, well-developed and complex. Right from the beginning the author creates a sense of foreboding. The poet's story is revealed slowly, and with an atmosphere of mystery and suspense.

An interesting feature is that the book starts in 2079, and goes back in time, with hints about what the future would hold.

Women's book clubs will find this a solid selection, with plenty to discuss - family relationships as well as a love story, and the conflicts and decisions of a full life.

Diane T. (Slingerlands, NY)

Not enough Romantics
This is the story of 4 siblings and how death affects their lives. The author has developed her characters,bringing the reader into their lives from the first page. The issues that these siblings live through are not only believable but heartbreaking. This is definitely a book club book with discussion - and glasses of wine - going on well into the evening!

DeAnn A. (Denver, CO)

Character-Driven Family Saga
This book was beautifully written, with realistic and flawed characters. This sweeping novel covers a family of four siblings through challenging childhoods and through the realities of adulthood. We get to know Fiona, Renee, Caroline, and Joe. We follow the Skinners through a funeral that changes their lives. The family ties are strong in this book and those connections are forged in childhood for the Skinners. The story alternates between a dystopian future and chapters from the past for each character. A memorable tale with characters that will stay with you even after you've finished the book.

...42 more reader reviews

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Author Information

Tara Conklin Author Biography

Photo: Mary Grace Long

Tara Conklin was born on St. Croix in the US Virgin Islands and raised in Stockbridge, Massachusetts. She is a graduate of Yale University, the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy and New York University School of Law. Most recently, she worked as a litigator in the New York and London offices of a corporate law firm but now devotes herself full-time to writing fiction. Prior to law school, Tara worked in a variety of jobs in a variety of locales. She dealt cards at a casino in Costa Rica, planned events at a press center in Moscow, taught English at a school in Madrid and waited tables at a hotel in Montana.

She lives with her family in Seattle. The House Girl is her first novel; The Last Romantics her second.

Author Interview
Link to Tara Conklin's Website

Other books by Tara Conklin at BookBrowse
  • The House Girl jacket
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

More Recommendations

Readers Also Browsed . . .

more novels...

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" articles
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $12 for 3 months or $39 for a year.
  • More about membership!

Join & Save $10!

Discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten. One-year membership: $29

Find out more

Today's Top Picks

  • Book Jacket: One Night Two Souls Went Walking
    One Night Two Souls Went Walking
    by Ellen Cooney
    In One Night Two Souls Went Walking, we follow a young interfaith chaplain as she carries out her ...
  • Book Jacket: Truthtelling
    by Lynne Schwartz
    The word "unsayable" can mean something is too vast to be put into words. Alternatively, it can ...
  • Book Jacket: The Book Collectors
    The Book Collectors
    by Delphine Minoui
    About halfway through The Book Collectors, I was disappointed. I came into the book with a ...
  • Book Jacket: Blue Sky Kingdom
    Blue Sky Kingdom
    by Bruce Kirkby
    Who hasn't dreamed of escaping all of the trappings of today's modern life and finding a secluded, ...

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    The Blind Light
    by Stuart Evers

    A multigenerational story about two families bound together by the tides of history.

    Reader Reviews
Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
The Exiles
by Christina Baker Kline
The author of Orphan Train returns with an ambitious, emotionally resonant historical novel.
Win This Book!
Win Jack

Return to Gilead with Jack, the instant New York Times bestseller

Enter to win Marilynne Robinson's latest novel in her classic series.



Solve this clue:

I G I O Ear A O T O

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.