Monday, March 3, 2014

Brother and sister united through conventional weirdness

Book: Fin & Lady
Author: Cathleen Schine
Published: 2013 (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux)
Pages: 217
Think if Breakfast at Tiffany’s Audrey Hepburn had taken in her adopted brother to go live with her in the ‘60s Village, and you have this book.
That’s underselling it a little, maybe, since its expansion beyond the starting flashpoint and honeymoon period of wackiness draws out the details of family relations into a complex diagram that rewrites and reinforces society norms as the changing bond between a bohemian whose only conventional feeling is that she wants to get married and have a family by her late twenties (her personal deadline keeps changing) and her younger brother who faces a steep learning curve from being thrust into his sister’s life when their parents die.
The biggest outward sign of how close they grow is how he’s charged with finding her a suitor to marry and how protective this makes him of his sister’s feelings – only one guy is ever worthy of her, and he ends up being an also-ran who stays in their life as a close friend as the sister travels to Italy, falls in love, gets pregnant, and finds out her lover is married all in one summer.
It’s a coming-of-age story (yay!) with interesting details but not drowning in angst or underlining peculiarities – it was the sixties, man, everybody was weird, especially in the Village. Throughout, there are nicely sparse flashes of a narrative device that is revealed late enough to not rush any of the story but early enough to explain a little deeper. Not much, though – I’ll go ahead and tell you that it turns out the narrator is the sister’s daughter, telling stories of her mom she’s heard from her cousin who is now raising her, because they don’t use that device for anything except that small reveal.
It was good, also a nice portrait of the times without beating the reader over the head with ironic time-period winks. Also back to the library it goes.

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