Fin & Lady by Cathleen Schine
Published in July, Cathleen Schine’s Fin & Lady caught my eye after seeing many positive reviews. Labeled as a top new book to read this summer, I downloaded this charming and bittersweet novel and was left with a sad sort of happy feeling. I have to admit, I’m a sucker for this emotion and especially appreciate when an author can leave me feeling this way.
Fin’s mother has just passed away and, since his father died years before, he is left under the care of his half sister, the free-spirited Lady. The last time Fin saw Lady was when he traveled with his parents to retrieve Lady from Capri after she pulled a “runaway bride” and fled the country. Always the subject of her father’s scorn, Lady lives life the way she wants and doesn’t worry herself with the opinion of others. Lady moves herself, along with Fin, her sassy maid Mabel, and Gus (Fin’s collie) into a partially finished townhouse on Charles Street in Greenwich Village (where all the beatniks live in New York City). Declaring that she is getting old, she enlists Fin’s help in finding herself a husband. Fin accepts this responsibility with great seriousness and this only makes him a more endearing character.
Lady soon finds herself with three suitors, unable to pick one and thriving off the personalities of all three while never feeling content. Eventually Lady finds herself running again. It is as the story progresses to its climax, that the reader begins catching hints that we don’t really know who the true narrator of the story is. I was fascinated by how Schine seemed to pull a fast one on the reader with her narrative style.
I loved all of the characters in this book. Fin in his earnestness, finding himself taking care of Lady as much as Lady is taking care of Fin. Mabel and her feistiness. The suitors (even though you root for the sensible Biffi, I found myself sympathizing for the others). And even Lady. She drives you crazy, but you don’t hate her for it. I don’t know if you’ve read my post about the book Summer Sisters but I somehow was reminded its character Caitlin. I hated Caitlin. She was selfish in a way I couldn’t forgive. To me, Lady is everything that Caitlin should have been. Sure Lady is selfish, but there was a bittersweet sadness to her that I enjoyed reading and made me care about what happened to her. And never in the book did I ever really doubt how much she loves Fin, even if she isn’t the best at showing it. The same can not be said about Judy Blume’s character in her novel.
Another aspect of Fin & Lady that I really enjoyed was the overall description of the time period in which it took place. It is the 1960’s in the Village and you, as the reader, aren’t beat over the head with it. Instead, you are made aware of the surroundings and occurrences of the time while the era doesn’t become the main star of the book. Schine’s stars are her characters.
I encourage you to read Cathleen Schine’s Fin & Lady. It is the type of book that while light, never becomes fluff. It is sweet and funny and a bit sad at the same time. And now, it is here that I will end this blog post with the word after which the title character is named.