fin and lady


In the same conversational style as The Three Weissmanns of Westport, Catherine Schine creates a story about an orphaned boy and his irrepressible fun-loving guardian in New York City – a modern “Mame” – in her short novel, Fin and Lady.

After his mother dies, eleven year-old Fin leaves the comfort of a farm in Connecticut to live with his wealthy half-sister, Lady, in Greenwich Village.  Twenty-three year old Lady, the family black sheep, provides Fin with a reading list, enrolls him in an unconventional bohemian school – the progressive New Flower, and enlists his help in deciding which of three suitors she should marry before she is twenty-five.

Although the plot sounds frivolous, Schine manages to channel the changing times from the sixties through the Vietnam War era, and reveal the insecurities of the main characters as they support each other in navigating their lives.  Supporting characters add humor to the unlikely escapades, some fitting nicely into the stereotypes that Schine uses to skillfully create expectations that never materialize: the Hungarian refugee and art dealer Biffi; the ascot-wearing lawyer Tyler; the Yale-educated Jack; Biffi’s Hungarian mother who hides her jewels in a paper bag of stale cookies; Mabel, Lady’s maid with an attitude.

In addition to the highlights of New York City as Lady tours Fin through the museums, art galleries, shops, and restaurants, Schine offers flowing descriptions of Capri, when Lady escapes to find true love:

“The town was full of steps and alleys. Enormous lemons hung from vines. The beach was tiny, the harbor full of brightly painted boats. There were dolphins one day. The sun was high and hot… Everything seemed enchanted.”

The narrator of this love story is unclear until she is revealed later in the story, and, at times, I found myself backtracking – thinking the author had missed a typo in the narrative – when the mysterious voice intermittently inserts an opinion.  Otherwise, this short read is humorous and disconcerting – a happy ending but a sad life.

Related PostThe Three Weissmanns of Westport

Enhanced by Zemanta

The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt

Bits of material, a faded pressed rose, ticket stubs – memorabilia that instantly trigger an emotion.  Perhaps you have a scrapbook full of old pieces of your life that you reopen now and then.

In The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt, Caroline Preston reveals her heroine’s life and the nineteen twenties era she lived through – with postcards, snips of old catalog ads, graduation announcements, candy wrappers, and more.

Who says you can’t tell a story without words?  Frankie’s high school graduation gifts are a scrapbook and her dead father’s Smith Corona typewriter; her dream is to become a writer.  As she grows from  “smartest girl in her class” to editor in a Paris magazine, Preston uses pictures – scraps actually – with captions to tell her story:

  • a seductive love affair with an older man that leads to a scholarship at Vassar,
  • her post-college apartment in Greenwich Village from the recommendation of Edna St. Vincent Millay (a fellow alum),
  • an escape from unrequited love that sends her to Paris and an apartment over the famous Shakespeare and Company bookstore of James Joyce, and an old flame rekindled –
  • until finally returning home to nurse her mother from tuberculosis and finding true love “in her own back yard.”

As Preston reveals Frankie’s coming of age tale, she offers full-page collages that include fashion, furniture, vintage ads, photos and sketches from the twenties with a sprinkling of short dialogue at appropriate junctures.

A romantic tale full of history and nostalgia – a picture book for adults.

Look inside The Scrapbook of Frankie Pratt at Preston’s website – here