Book Reviews: The Last romantics, City of Girls and At the Wolf’s Table

Its summer so lots of Summer read options. Here my thoughts on three very female empowering books, as we have three strong female leads in very different contexts.

The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin

The Last Romantics: A Novel by [Conklin, Tara]

Good Reads Blurb: 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

My take: 5 out of 5 I absolutely loved this book. Its family epic, but romantic at the same time. But its not sacharine, its raw and has depth and it explores a lot family dynamics and people’s responses. What makes us do what we do and how specific moments and decisions in our lives have such significant effects to the future. A must read

Some of my favorite quotes:

  • “some people will choose, again and again, to destroy what it is they value most”
  • “It’s possible to exist under any number of illusions, to believe so thoroughly in the presence of things you cannot see – safety, God, love – that you impose upon them physical shapes. A be,d a cross, a husband, But ideas willed into being are still ideas and just as fragile”
  • “Everyday we struggle to decide what to give away and what to keep, but everyday we make the calculations and we live with the results. This then is the true lesson: there is nothing romantic about love. Only the most naive believe it will save them. Only the hardiest of us will survive it. And yet we believe in love because we want to believe in it. Because really what else is there amid all out glorious follies and urges and weakness and stumbles? the magic, hope, the gorgeous idea of it”.

City Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

City of Girls: A Novel by [Gilbert, Elizabeth]

Good Reads Blurb:  From the # 1 New York Times bestselling author of Eat, Pray, Loveand The Signature of All Things, a delicious novel of glamour, sex, and adventure, about a young woman discovering that you don’t have to be a good girl to be a good person. Life is both fleeting and dangerous, and there is no point in denying yourself pleasure, or being anything other than what you are.
Beloved author Elizabeth Gilbert returns to fiction with a unique love story set in the New York City theater world during the 1940s. Told from the perspective of an older woman as she looks back on her youth with both pleasure and regret (but mostly pleasure), City of Girls explores themes of female sexuality and promiscuity, as well as the idiosyncrasies of true love.In 1940, nineteen-year-old Vivian Morris has just been kicked out of Vassar College, owing to her lackluster freshman-year performance. Her affluent parents send her to Manhattan to live with her Aunt Peg, who owns a flamboyant, crumbling midtown theater called the Lily Playhouse. There Vivian is introduced to an entire cosmos of unconventional and charismatic characters, from the fun-chasing showgirls to a sexy male actor, a grand-dame actress, a lady-killer writer, and no-nonsense stage manager. But when Vivian makes a personal mistake that results in professional scandal, it turns her new world upside down in ways that it will take her years to fully understand. Ultimately, though, it leads her to a new understanding of the kind of life she craves-and the kind of freedom it takes to pursue it. It will also lead to the love of her life, a love that stands out from all the rest.
Now ninety-five years old and telling her story at last, Vivian recalls how the events of those years altered the course of her life – and the gusto and autonomy with which she approached it. At some point in a woman’s life, she just gets tired of being ashamed all the time, she muses. After that, she is free to become whoever she truly is. Written with a powerful wisdom about human desire and connection, City of Girls is a love story like no other.

My take: 4 out of 5. This is not the book I was expecting from Elizabeth Gilbert but I fully enjoyed it. I have to add bonus points and highly recommend reading this whilst you are in NY watching Broadway shows because it increased the nostalgia feel. But back to the story – its a wonderful ale of sexual awakening, finding who you are and pursuing your path. Also how different version of love exist and the intricacies of each. This is the perfect beach read, great characters, easy to read, campy and glam. (also with this cover it was a must buy)

Some of my favorite quotes:

  • “We can’t just follow Paris for the sake of Paris” (you might need to read to bool to get this one, but pretty much what i think of style)
  • “This is what flirtation is in its purest form – a conversation held without words”
  • “Anyway, at some point in the woman’s life, she just gets tired of being ashamed all the time. After that, she is free to become whoever she truly is. “
  • “When women are gathered together with no men around, they don’t have to be anything in particular; they can just be”

At the Wolf’s Table  by Rosella Postorino,

At the Wolf's Table: A Novel by [Postorino, Rosella]

Good Reads Blurb:They called it the Wolfsschanze, the Wolf’s Lair. ‘Wolf’ was his nickname. As hapless as Little Red Riding Hood, I had ended up in his belly. A legion of hunters was out looking for him, and to get him in their grips they would gladly slay me as well.” Germany, 1943: Twenty-six-year-old Rosa Sauer’s parents are gone, and her husband Gregor is far away, fighting on the front lines of WWII. Impoverished and alone, she makes the fateful decision to leave war-torn Berlin to live with her in-laws in the countryside, thinking she’ll find refuge there. But one morning, the SS come to tell her she has been conscripted to be one of Hitler’s tasters: three times a day, she and nine other women go to his secret headquarters, the Wolf’s Lair, to eat his meals before he does. Forced to eat what might kill them, the tasters begin to divide into The Fanatics, those loyal to Hitler, and the women like Rosa who insist they aren’t Nazis, even as they risk their lives every day for Hitler’s.As secrets and resentments grow, this unlikely sisterhood reaches its own dramatic climax. What’s more, one of Rosa’s SS guards has become dangerously familiar, and the war is worsening outside. As the months pass, it becomes increasingly clear that Rosa and everyone she knows are on the wrong side of history. 

My take:  3.5 out of 5. This book took a while to get to me, I was on the verge of dropping it and then it got good. Not amazing but good. It has the WWII backstory which i am always a sucker for, as I love me some historical fiction. It is an interesting take, and one that is not often heard, that from inside the Nazi machinery. An interesting read.


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