Contributed By: Sam Smink
Recap: The name “he Romantics” was attributed to a long list of 18th and 19th century poets and artists who believed that love and passion could conquer all. But in the novel by Galt Niederhoffer, it refers to a group of seven former Yale co-eds who reunite two of their best friends’ wedding, six years after graduation.
Lila –the bride– is a self-appointed queen with the attitude to match. She’s very easy to dislike; after all, she’s beautiful, intelligent and landed the alpha male, Tom. Our groom-to-be is handsome, brilliant and scared out of his mind. He wants to be an artist and build a life out of instinct, but fear has kept him with Lila for 10 years.
Cue Laura, Lila’s ex-roommate and Tom’s ex-girlfriend. Laura is smart, attractive, and — like Tom — doesn’t know what she wants out of life but accepts it. In other words, she’s a mess. Lila loves Tom, Tom loves Laura, Laura loves Tom. In the ten years that Lila and Tom have dated, Laura and Tom’s love is never quite at bay. But Tom’s desire for a life without obstacles keeps him firm in Lila’s grasp.
Now it’s the night before the wedding and all seven of our Romantics are essentially unhappy with the way life has turned out, although they’d never admit it to each other. A night of drinking and tomfoolery leads to a lost groom, a coke habit, and some adultery. All’s forgotten in the morning –or so we are led to believe.
Analysis: In The Romantics, we meet seven of the most selfish people — people that are always unhappy and unsatisfied. They have gone through life at the top of the food chain, with the romantic idea that life’s struggles will disappear eventually. Only it doesn’t, and when they realize that, they’re already stuck in lives they don’t want.
My real problem with the book is that the main characters are unlikable. Instead of maturely dealing with their problems, they are self-destructive. For instance, Tom broke up with Laura ten years ago, but she still shows up to be the maid of honor at his wedding, with a sourpuss expression on her face. You’d almost sympathize with Lila, if she wasn’t awful. She’s depicted as nothing more than a self-absorbed monster, who shivers at compliments handed to others and revels in adoration. And Tom is just as easy to look at with disdain. It’s clear Tom doesn’t know what he wants, but it’s not fair to drag Laura into his mess.
Other than that, it’s hard to feel anything personally for the sidekicks. They engage in self-destructive behavior and are very one-dimensional. That being said, I wouldn’t discount the entire book. If you want to read a story to remind yourself how great you have it, and learn a lesson or two, this book is for you.
MVP: Laura. Despite being consistently outshone by the sexier Lila, and being hopelessly in love with an engaged man, Laura stays true to herself. She knows she is a mess but she accepts is. Is she a little selfish too? Absolutely. But she is not afraid, in the end, to let Tom know exactly what kind of coward he’s been all along.
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