Book Reviews

Meet Judith Rodby, Ph.D., Professor Emerita of English from CSU, Chico. Judith leads our monthly book club and is a voracious reader who enjoys connecting with fellow book lovers. Judith led The National Reading Initiative for the National Writing Project and has facilitated book clubs for children, adolescents, and adults. Be sure to check back frequently to learn about her latest favorites, and browse the archive for even more!


This month, Judith reviews The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin

“The Last Romantics” by Tara Conklin, author of best-selling “The House Girl,” begins with the conceit that Fiona Skinner is a 102 year-old poet, asked by an audience member to comment upon the character Luna from her celebrated work “The Love Poem.” Fiona’s answer is the story of the Skinner family, her life with three siblings. Her response is the novel itself. 

This tale begins with the sudden death of patriarch Ellis Avery Skinner, and then and “the pause,” in which the mother Noni takes to her bed for three years.  Renee Skinner, eleven, and the oldest child, runs the show in a yellow house with a swing set, a pet rabbit named Celeste, charts of duties and weekly deliveries of groceries. While this is a romantic tale, with charmedly feral children baking their own birthday cakes and swimming in muddy ponds, the novel becomes more interesting and less bucolic as the children’s world collapses.