The act of reading ... begins on a flat surface, counter or page, and then gets stirred and chopped and blended until what we make, in the end, is a dish, or story, all our own.
— Adam Gopnik

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .

July 27, 2013

Fin & Lady

      'Now, Fin,' she said, a hand on each shoulder, surveying him, 'this has been a tragedy of monstrous proportions.'
      Monstrous proportions. Fin remembered how much he loved the way Lady spoke. Sometimes she sounded like the ladies in slinky dresses in old movies on TV. Sometimes she sounded like a cowboy. Monstrous proportions. It was a tragedy; it was monstrous, a monster so big he would never get past it.
      'So. Of course you'll want a nice bath and then a nap.'
      'No thank you.' He looked down at the worn boards of the porch. They needed paint. He had helped his grandfather paint them just two years ago, holding the brushes mostly, cleaning them with turpentine and a rag.
      'No? Really? That's what I do, you know, when tragedy strikes. A nice stiff drink, a soak in the tub, a nap...'
      A stiff drink. That's a good one, Fin thought.
      'I'm eleven,' he said.
      'Ah,' she said. 'Too old for a nap, too young for a drink. Is that what you're saying?'
The Sixties aren't really my thing, so if someone other than Cathleen Schine had written Fin & Lady, I'm not sure I would have put it on my reading list. But I've read all her other novels, and liked them very much, and this book has the same gentle humor and the same slightly displaced, slightly odd characters that I always end up wanting to spend time with.

When the book opens, Fin is a young boy, living on his grandparents' small farm in eastern Connecticut. As a small child, Fin discovers that he has an older half-sister (he thinks of her as a pleated skirt, two legs, white socks, and black patent leather shoes). He knows that she is beautiful, and a little wild. When she runs away from her wedding, he even travels with his parents to Paris, then Rome, then Capri to bring her home. Lady calls him Finino, and gives him sips of cappuccino on a spoon; five or six years later, when Fin's parents have both died, she takes him to live with her in Greenwich Village.

Lady decides that she must be married within a year, before she turns 25, and enlists Fin to help her find a husband. For much of the book, her three 'suitors' -- a romantic, artistic refugee from the Balkans; the self-important lawyer she left at the altar; and a younger, handsome, jock --  drift in and out, until Fin and Lady spend a summer on Capri, Lady takes up photography, Fin falls in love for the first time, and ...

There's a little device in this book that I liked very much. It's written in the third person, but then slowly, once in a while, you come to realize that the narrator is there, too; that he or she has heard the story from Fin and is looking back, with him, from the present, at everything that has happened.  I found myself wondering, not too desperately, who this narrator was, and then finding out, and then seeing the end of the book unfold, just about perfectly.


JoAnn said...

I really enjoyed The Three Weissmanns of Westport - characters, setting, writing, and connection to Jane Austen -and have every intention of reading this book, too. So glad it has earned your stamp of approval!

PS It was reviewed in the NYTimes today.

Vintage Reading said...

I wasn't crazy about the The Three Weissmen's of Westport, but I would read Schine again. I'll add this to tbr list.

Thank you for visiting!

Card Catalog

#6barsets #emma200th #maisie #Middlemarchin2019 #PalliserParty #Woolfalong A.A. Milne Agatha Christie Alexander McCall Smith Allison Pearson Amy Lowell Angela Thirkell Ann Bridge Anne Perry Anthony Trollope Anticipation Armchair Travels Art Audiobooks Barbara Pym Biography Bloomsbury Bookish things Boston British Library Crime Classics Cambridge Cathleen Schine Charles Dickens Coffee-table books Cookbooks D.E. Stevenson Deborah Crombie Donna Leon Dorothy L. Sayers Dorothy Whipple E.H. Young E.M. Delafield E.M. Forster Edith Wharton Elinor Lipman Elizabeth Gaskell Elizabeth Jenkins Elizabeth Taylor Elizabeth von Arnim Ellizabeth Taylor Emily Dickinson Ernest Hemingway Essays Eudora Welty Fanny Burney Fiction Films Food from Books Food Writing Found on a Blog George Eliot Georgette Heyer Gertrude Stein Helen Ashton Henry James History Homes and Haunts Ideas Imogen Robertson Isabella Stewart Gardner Jacqueline Winspear Jane Austen Joanna Trollope Julia Child Language Laurie Colwin Letters Library Books Literature Louise Andrews Kent Louise Penny M.F.K. Fisher Madame Bovary Madame de Sévigné Madame de Staël Margaret Kennedy Margery Sharp Martha Grimes Mary Shelley Memoirs Miss Read My Year with Edith Mysteries Nathaniel Hawthorne Nonfiction Nook Only Connect P.D. James Paris in July Persephones Plays Poetry Pride and Prejudice 200 Queen Victoria R.I.P. Reading England 2015 Ruth Rendell Sarah Orne Jewett Short Stories Susan Hill Switzerland Sylvia Beach Team Middlemarch The 1924 Club The Brontës the Carlyles The Classics Club Thomas Hardy Virago Virginia Woolf Washington Irving Willa Cather William Maxwell Winifred Peck Winifred Watson