The Last Enchantments Review
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Unabridged Audiobook: 9 CDs (11 hours)
Read by Luke Daniels

If you go to your local movie theater to see the latest hit comedy, there’s a pretty good chance that you’ll be introduced to some kind of twenty-something slacker—a character who just can’t seem to grow up. But in the audio version of his novel The Last Enchantments, author Charles Finch introduces readers to a different kind of aimless young man: the kind who can afford to do his youthful dithering while studying at Oxford.

The story follows American William Baker as he leaves New York behind to attend Oxford University for a year. A young man of privilege, Will graduated from Yale before getting involved in politics. But after a painful campaign defeat, he’s ready to get away from it all—even if that means leaving the woman he loves.

As soon as he arrives at Oxford, Will gets caught up in the friendships, the parties, and the politics that come with the college experience. And when he meets beautiful, mysterious Sophie, he finds himself rethinking his plans for the future.

With its alluring setting and lyrical storytelling, The Last Enchantments is a beautiful and bittersweet character study, following along with the main character as he reflects on those last fleeting moments of youth—on the relationships, the acquaintances, and the ongoing feelings of indecision.

Despite the novel’s classic feel, though, Will is really just another twenty-something slacker. His year studying English at Oxford is entirely unnecessary, serving only as an escape from reality—from a trying setback, some difficult decisions, and a relationship that may not be as perfect as he imagines it to be. It’s mostly just a way to delay adulthood by spending a year attending parties and enjoying those passing late-night discussions with friends. And, admittedly, his refusal to face—or even care about—reality can often be maddening.

Of course, that’s not to say that reality doesn’t rear its ugly head from time to time—as is often the case for those who go out of their way to avoid it. And as Will struggles to avoid wrestling with his path for the future, relationships go awry and tragedy strikes those close to him, giving the novel plenty of melancholy moments.

Meanwhile, Will is joined by a motley group of young and often equally privileged characters. But while you might expect them to be little more than shallow rich kids, most of these characters are lovable in their own ways—like Indian rap enthusiast Anil or reality TV hopeful Timmo or Ella, who masks her vulnerability with piercings and hair dye. They’re the perfect characters to have around for a quarter-life crisis.

Unfortunately, though, the frequently unbalanced audio production sometimes makes for a difficult—and frustrating—listening experience. Reader Luke Daniels (who might sometimes remind you of Johnny Depp) tends to drop his voice significantly when he’s speaking as other characters—especially the female characters. And if you have your audio set to a comfortable level for the main narration, you might end up losing some of the dialogue—or rewinding back and turning up the volume, just to hear a line.

The Last Enchantments isn’t a bold and gripping read. It isn’t necessarily filled with memorable lessons or unforgettable characters. But this gracefully meandering character-driven drama offers an honest look at the aimlessness of youth.

Listen to the review on Shelf Discovery:

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