The Last of Her Kind, an incredibly rich and moving story by Sigrid Nunez, is narrated by Georgette George, a middle-class freshman at Barnard College in 1968. Her roommate, the privileged and Connecticut-born Dooley Ann Drayton, mourns not having been paired with a black roommate but befriends Georgette just the same. Out of bourgeois guilt, Dooley drops her first name and decides to go by Ann; her reputation as smart, socially aware, and unrelenting quickly begins to precede her, her pre-college accomplishments intimidating Georgette. The two girls smoke together between poetry classes and late at night, Ann complaining about the white entitlement of her parents and the snobbery of their class. Georgette struggles with being away from her family and feels very out of place at Barnard, particularly in her poetry workshop.
Beautifully paced, the novel floats many years into the future, after both girls have dropped out of Barnard and assumed different lives in New York City. Over the years, the two loose touch and Georgette begins working at a beauty and lifestyle magazine in the city. But when Ann is suddenly the subject of media attention and scrutiny for a violent crime, Georgette reflects again on her friendship with Ann and their first couple of years together at Barnard.
A reflective look at the youth of the 1970s and of turbulent, racially-charged times in America, The Last of Her Kind achieves so much with its introspective narrator, Georgette. Nunez offers a careful look into the complex friendship of Georgette and Ann, exploring strained moments in their Barnard dormitory with an artful balance. Georgette’s jealousy and envy are tempered with compassion as the two girls share a very unique and unconventional attachment.
Ann Drayton is a powerful character who speaks loudly from The Last of Her Kind with unshakable ideals. Uncompromising and quick-witted, Ann’s presence on the page is palpable and, at times, frightening. Perhaps inspired by Patricia Hearst, Ann functions not only as a finely constructed fictional character but as a study of a particular 1970s revolutionary girl of privilege, greatly affected by the current affairs of her era.
To read more about Sigrid Nunez, click here.