The Last Enchantments

LastEnchantmentsThe Last Enchantments
Charles Finch
St. Martin’s Press, 334 pages

This is the first novel I have read in s few years. That’s not quite true. I read Snapper last year, but it was represented as autobiographical nonfiction when I heard the author interview on Science Friday, and I read it that way. It was only later I later learned was published as fiction. I also took a shot at Pynchon’s Vineland last year, but abandoned it as I got tired of its North American version of magical realism, something I relished in the mid and late 1970’s. But The Last Enchantments was my first conscious, complete foray into fiction in quite some time, and it was a pleasure.

The protagonist, Will, worked on the losing John Kerry presidential campaign along with his girlfriend, Alison. While they had made plans to build a life together, Will applied for, and was accepted into, a year at Oxford. Most of the novel is set there, with some flashbacks to the campaign.

The novel describes Will’s classmates at Oxford, the community of the surrounding town, including Blackwell’s Books with which I spent a lot of money in my undergraduate days, and some of the ancient, arcane Oxford University ceremonies which continue today no matter how hoary.

In the course of the novel, Will makes a lot of stupid decisions about the women he chooses to sleep with, his relationship with Alison, and his career. Nonetheless, I found the plot believable and the characters engaging. I loved the portrayal of graduate student life at Oxford.

A happy ending there was not, and I was seriously ticked at Will for being such a dumb-ass. Regardless, I am delighted to have read The Last Enchantments.

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