The Last Enchantments by Charles Finch
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Publishing Date: January 2014
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 behind, along with the devoted, ambitious, and well-connected woman he’s been in love with for the last four years.
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.
William Baker decides to pack his bags and head to Oxford to study literature for a year. His career in political campaigns has slowed and he feels like he’s stuck in a rut. Leaving behind NYC, job opportunities, a long-time girlfriend, Will looks forward to his adventure in England and putting off “real life” for the time being. As the weeks progress in school, he befriends posh Tom, adorable Anil, talented Anneliese, studious Ella, driven Peter, and the ever elusive Sophie. His journey into self-discovery, and navigating the many forms of love, is deeply moving and incredibly touching.
I was originally drawn to this book because of the Oxford setting. I didn’t expect to like Will — the stereotype I have in my head of “poor little rich boy” is not a positive one — but little by little I began to see myself in him, my friends in him and his friends, our experiences quite similar. Will feels lost in the “adult world” and finds comfort in academia. Unsure of his future, he makes wild decisions to put off the inevitable. There are so many twenty-somethings out there who feel just the same: the desire to grow up and become someone, while at the same time terrified, unsure, and fearing failure.
Will is conflicted throughout the book when it comes to romance. Every type of love is presented: the enduring love with a long-time flame, passion and obsession with someone new and out-of-reach, and lust after a friend. There is no clear-cut relationship, which is actually quite refreshing in a book because it’s true to life. Emotions, love especially, never have logical explanations.
Everything you would expect from a graduate student is in this book: from studying in libraries, pubs, and cafes to parties in clubs, from sleeping with a friend to lazy walks in the park. There’s no sugar-coating or brushing over facts. It’s plain truth about one young man’s journey, all the mistakes and accomplishments, all the experiences, to the path of his future. It’s beautiful.
Thank you, Edelweiss, for providing this book from St. Martin’s Press for review!
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