The Last Enchantments is a powerfully moving and lyrical audiobook.
A young American embarks on a year at Oxford and has an impassioned affair that will change his life forever. 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.
For listeners who made a classic of Richard Yates's A Good School, Charles Finch's The Last Enchantments is a sweeping audiobook about love and loss that redefines what it means to grow up as an American in the twenty-first century.
©2014 Charles Finch (P)2013 Macmillan Audio
"Daniels depicts Baker's struggle to find himself with earnestness and creates empathy in the listener for Will's complicated history. Listeners will feel like they know these characters as Daniels guides them through their maturation. Characters like Anil and Tom are portrayed with knowing and clarity." (AudioFile)
Having enjoyed Finch's Lenox series, I was eager to hear his first effort in another genre and very happy to discover it was terrific. I had to read it afterwards because it's one of those I can appreciate even more in print. Finch is a fine wordsmith and I can only hope he turns out many more pieces of fiction.
The audio version falls down for me in the narration, however. The reader had difficulty doing women's voices in normal speaking volume such that in dialogue the sound levels between male and female speakers was quite uneven at times. I had to rewind and raise the volume in a number of places to hear all sides of a conversation when a woman was in the mix. And then the male voices were too loud. Where I felt the reader excelled was in his ability to do the various accents. I don't think anyone could have handled that any better than he did.
This book was a well-written and fun to read. I prefer Mr. Finch's mysteries, but I think that is mainly because I love mysteries and perhaps the topic of this book was difficult for me to relate to in some ways. Also, the ending was too open-ended/anti-climactic for my taste. That said, it was an enjoyable read and the characters were well-developed.
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