REVIEW: Fin & Lady by Cathleen Schine

TITLE: Fin & Lady

AUTHOR: Cathleen Schine

PUBLISHER: Sarah Crichton Books

RELEASE DATE: July 9, 2013


TYPE: Hardcover; 288 pages

GENRE: Coming of Age, Historical fiction-ish

SOURCE: Library



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.

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.

 I wouldn’t necessarily deem this as historical nonfiction if only for the fact that the events that are taking place are not entirely central to the character’s lives, if that makes sense. The events are happening and they are affected but it is in no way the makings of the entire novel.

We begin by meeting Fin, who has lost his father previously and most recently his mother, leaving him without any caretakers save for his adult half sister, Lady. It’s been some time since Fin saw Lady last and he seems completely enamored with her as young children often are with interesting characters. They met first when he was five years old, in which his father, mother and himself all trekked across the globe to find Lady and bring her home after she had left her fiancé at the alter and fled to Capri.

What troubles me most about this storyline, although it has the makings to be a really endearing coming of age tale, it seems to fall short with a lack of character development–especially on Lady’s behalf. The majority of the story focuses on Lady’s behavior–the way she jumps from suitor to suitor, acts impulsively and really, just flits around Greenwich Village like the rich girl she is. Now, she is never neglectful to Fin as far as we can see but I feel that is mostly due to Mable, their housekeeper and not because Lady is all that responsible. It is Mable who cooks, cleans and does their laundry for them and it is Mable that takes care of Fin whenever Lady is out with one of her flavors of the month.

Lady greatly reminds me of Daisy Buchanan in The Great Gatsby. She’s rich, flighty, impulsive and while Daisy was in love with Gatsby but married Tom anyway, Lady isn’t in love with anyone but herself and strings her suitors along, not for months, but for years. The suitors are a trio of gentleman of varying types–a jock, a well off lawyer (her previously jilted fiancé), and a Bohemian poet type. They are relentless in their pursuit, going so far as to move into Lady’s house when she’s had enough and disappears for weeks. This part drove me crazy!

I found so may flaws with this plot line. First, and foremost, is the issue that Fin’s father had written out Fin’s mother’s will. Now, in my opinion, if his father really despised Lady so much would he really give custody of Fin to Lady in the event of his mother’s death? Or is there something untouched upon about how he didn’t despise her as much as he expressed and this was his way of showing it? I can’t know for sure but it just seemed implausible to me that he would end up with Lady.

Second, the suitors. Ugh. The suitors and Lady’s endless pursuit of someone to marry, despite the fact that she doesn’t actually want to get married. I know, I know– it’s the 60’s and women felt they had to get married but Lady had scads of money and seemed bored by everyone so why on earth push herself to get married? It frustrated me how much she made Fin a part of her dating scene. It also frustrated me how selfish Fin was with Lady. Now, when he first moves in with her at eleven that is understandable. He’s a child. But, after several years of living with Lady, seeing how she lives and the way she behaves, he’s still wildly possessive of her in a way that almost makes me question if he’s in love with his half sister.

In some points of the story the plot seemed to get away from Schine. Like she had an idea where she wanted to go but once she started writing it just whisked her away and somehow the message was lost in all the meandering everywhere. In my opinion, Lady could have dealt with some harsh reality blows thrown in there to create some tension and set her up for some character development but what does happen is small and doesn’t seem to cause more than a ripple in her lifestyle.

I wanted to like this book but I found myself having to push through it in order to finish it (and that could have been the surgery, etc. too). But, I did finish it and what a great sigh of relief to be done with it. I’m always leery of a novel that boasts praise for other novels by the same author on the back cover instead of the one I’m reading–makes me wonder if no one else liked it! If you like coming of age stories then you may enjoy this one. It just wasn’t my cup of tea.

What did you guys think? Has anyone else read it?



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