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The Last Enchantments

Review

The Last Enchantments

Following AN OLD BETRAYAL, the seventh installment in the Victorian-era Lenox mystery series, Charles Finch introduces readers to England’s iconic university, Oxford, New York-born Finch’s alma mater. One imagines that some portions of this beguiling contemporary novel may be autobiographical.

"Like the ladies who attend university classes for the purpose intended, readers, especially Americans who 'have a costume-drama dream of England,' may disremember Will’s wasted year in the UK but will forever recall the rich history of Oxford."

Yale graduate Will Baker leaves New York and his beloved and politically well-connected Alison, after supporting John Kerry’s failed presidential campaign, to study literature at Fleet, “one of [Oxford’s] forty constituent colleges.” Though Will “felt a terrible longing for Alison,” he betrays their love and is instantly caught up in a world of booze and plays “an unhealthy amount of table football.” His loves vacillate among Alison, Jess, Ella, and enigmatic Sophie, who challenges Will to question his own essence. These enchanting young ladies deserve better than shallow, Animal House-like Will. Perhaps Shakespeare foretold the philandering lives of Will and his booze buddies, Tom, Anil and Timmo: “Sigh no more, ladies, sigh no more/Men were deceivers ever.”

In a maudlin scholastic life, Will specializes in lesser known writings of George Orwell, who wrote in his diaries, “At 50, every man has the face he deserves.” At age 25, Will has earned his, etched with lies and deceit. He experiences sort of a midlife crisis and wants what he doesn’t have --- until he gets it. Alison still loves him, but it’s “as if two parallel lines had touched” when they get together in England. They’re never on the same plane at the same time in the “wilted drama of our relationship.”

Though told through Will’s viewpoint, the real protagonist in this deftly written novel, set in 2005, is the collection of colleges known as Oxford, “such a tidal city, people in and out.” And “the city itself a mystery and a charm: whispering, from her towers, the last enchantments of the Middle Ages.”

Like the ladies who attend university classes for the purpose intended, readers, especially Americans who “have a costume-drama dream of England,” may disremember Will’s wasted year in the UK but will forever recall the rich history of Oxford.

Reviewed by L. Dean Murphy on January 31, 2014

The Last Enchantments
by Charles Finch

  • Publication Date: January 28, 2014
  • Genres: Fiction
  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • ISBN-10: 1250018714
  • ISBN-13: 9781250018717