Fin and Lady (Schine)

Fin & Lady
Cathleen Schine, 2013
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
288 pp.
ISBN-13: 9781250050052

From the author of The Three Weissmanns of Westport, a wise, clever story of New York in the ’60s

It’s 1964. Eleven-year-old Fin and his glamorous, worldly, older half sister, Lady, have just been orphaned, and Lady, whom Fin hasn’t seen in six years, is now his legal guardian and his only hope. That means Fin is uprooted from a small dairy farm in rural Connecticut to Greenwich Village, smack in the middle of the swinging ’60s. He soon learns that Lady—giddy, careless, urgent, and obsessed with being free—is as much his responsibility as he is hers.

So begins Fin & Lady, the lively, spirited new novel by Cathleen Schine, the author of the bestselling The Three Weissmanns of Westport. Fin and Lady lead their lives against the background of the ’60s, the civil rights movement, and the Vietnam War—Lady pursued by ardent, dogged suitors, Fin determined to protect his impulsive sister from them and from herself.

From a writer The New York Times has praised as “sparkling, crisp, clever, deft, hilarious, and deeply affecting,” Fin & Lady is a comic, romantic love story: the story of a brother and sister who must form their own unconventional family in increasingly unconventional times. (From the publisher.)

Author Bio
Where—Bridgeport, Connecticut, USA
Education—B.A., Barnard College
Currently—lives in New York City and Venice, California

In her own words:
I tried to be a medieval historian, but I have no memory for facts, dates, or abstract ideas, so that was a bust. When I came back to New York, I tried to be a buyer at Bloomingdale's because I loved shopping. I had an interview, but they never called me back. I really had no choice. I had to be a writer. I could not get a job.

After doing some bits of freelance journalism at the Village Voice, I did finally get a job as a copy editor at Newsweek. My grammar was good, but I can't spell, so it was a challenge. My boss was very nice and indulgent, though, and I wrote Alice in Bed on scraps of paper during slow hours. I didn't have a regular job again until I wrote The Love Letter.

The Love Letter was about a bookseller, so I worked in a bookstore in an attempt to understand the art of bookselling. I discovered that selling books is an interdisciplinary activity, the disciplines being: literary critic, psychologist, and stevedore. I was fired immediately for total incompetence and chaos and told to sit in the back and observe, no talking, no touching.

I dislike humidity and vomit, I guess. My interests and hobbies are too expensive or too physically taxing to actually pursue. I like to take naps. I go shopping to unwind. I love to shop. Even if it's for Q-Tips or Post-Its.

When asked what book most influenced her career as a writer, here is her response:

When I left graduate school after a gruesome attempt to become a medieval historian, I crawled into bed and read Our Mutual Friend. It was, unbelievably, the first Dickens I had ever read, the first novel I'd read in years, and one of the first books not in or translated from Latin I'd read in years. It was a startling, liberating, exhilarating moment that reminded me what English can be, what characters can be, what humor can be. I of course read all of Dickens after that and then started on Trollope, who taught me the invaluable lesson that character is fate, and that fate is not always a neat narrative arc.

But I always hesitate to claim the influence of any author: It seems presumptuous. I want to be influenced by Dickens and Trollope. I long to be influenced by Jane Austen, too, and Barbara Pym and Alice Munro. I aspire to be influenced by Randall Jarrell's brilliant novel, Pictures from an Institution. And I read Muriel Spark when I feel myself becoming soft and sentimental, as a kind of tonic. (From a 2003 Barnes & Noble interview.)

Book Reviews
In this bildungsroman set against the swinging '60s, a young boy named Fin is orphaned and must move from his quiet Connecticut dairy farm to live with his much older half sister, Lady, in Greenwich Village, where things will never be the same for him.
Los Angeles Times

The tale of an unprepared relative thrust into parenting a newly orphaned child usually takes a comedic bent and wraps up with a newfound romance and emotional maturity. Eleven-year-old Fin and his stepsister...haven't seen each other in six years.... Readers whose interest may begin to flag over Fin's adoration of Lady should hang on for a final plot twist.... [F]amily [drama] with more bite than sweetness. —Jan Blodgett, Davidson Coll. Lib., NC
Library Journal

[A] young boy raised by his madcap half sister....a mix of Auntie Mame and Holly Golightly.... [Lady] puts Fin in charge of finding her a suitable husband...[but] she's unable to love anyone except Fin and their black housekeeper, Mable, a character who defies conventional stereotypes and thus personifies the upheavals in the decade's civil rights movement.... Schine offers up a bittersweet lemon souffle of family love and romantic passion.
Kirkus Reviews

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