Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Fin and Lady by Cathleen Schine

Newly orphaned Fin (named by his father for the “three bright white letters” at the end of the movie “Les Enfants du Paradis” because he hoped Fin would be “the last of his children”) goes to live with his half-sister Lady. Fin who is 11, and Lady, 24, have met only once before, six years earlier when Fin and his parents were sent by Lady's mother to retrieve her from Europe, where she had fled after ditching her fiancé at the altar. Since "ditch day" (and probably before that too), Lady has experienced much of the world--possibly too much, in fact. Hounded by suitors, unpredictable, adventurous to a fault, she is a lot like Holly Golightly, only filthy rich.

Lady, Fin, and Fin's collie Gus form an unconventional family. Fin and the dog move from their previous home, a farm in New England, to Lady's "terrific, perfect, groovy" brownstone on Charles Street in Greenwich Village. The time is the early 1960s, and in his new home, Fin is surrounded by Charles Street beatniks instead of Connecticut cows. He misses his parents (and his cows), and contemplates his new situation, worried that he and Lady are not real family, just an adventure:

"He lay there in the unfamiliar semidarkness, the sheet pulled close in spite of the summer heat, and he wondered what more he could do to make Lady like him. She liked him, but did she like him enough to keep him with her? Forever? He often felt that Lady was just ahead of him, just out of reach, rounding the corner, leaving just a glimpse of her hem as disappeared."

Cathleen Schine is also the author of the 2011 best-selling comic novel “The Three Weissmanns of Westport.” As in that book, the characters in “Fin and Lady” - both those whose names are in the title, as well as those with lesser roles - are richly imagined, and much of the dialogue is smart and the descriptions funny. The storyline moves from New York to Capri and back to New York.  But who is the book’s narrator? You need to read to the end of the book to find out!

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