Saturday, 30 January 2016

Fin & Lady - Cathleen Schine

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Sometimes I read a book and want to tell everyone about it - resulting in a resounding silence all round!  Sometimes other people pick up on it and read it too, loving it as much as me.  Here is one of those "other people pick up on it" kind of books, I hope.  Published here in paperback in 2013, it only has 6 reviews on UK Amazon, so I hope it is just a sleeper, rather than a book to be ignored.  I loved this one, so let me tell you about it.
Fin is an eleven year old boy, living on a farm in Connecticut, when his mother dies.  He's now orphaned, and has no-one.  Well, that's not strictly true, as he has Lady, a half sister, living in New York city, old enough to become his guardian.  And so he's taken to NY to live with her, a girl who might be described as "flighty", but in the heady days of the 1960s perhaps free thinker might be a little nearer the mark.  Not quite near enough though.  For she longs to be free herself, even though she does not know what she really means.  What she does know is that marriage is something that removes freedom, so it's not for her.  She longs for adventure, and so she and Fin set out to have those adventures, riding bikes in Greenwich village, visiting museums, drinking in cafes, until it's time for Fin to be enrolled in school.  Her choice for him is a school where kids sit on the floor in circles whilst the teacher (called by his first name if you please) discusses "stuff".  For this is a time when Flower Power was at it's height, the Beatles were big everywhere, the Vietnam war was on everyone's mind, and people were marching for peace in the streets. 
If you lived through the 1960s, you will recognise a lot of things.  If you didn't, it will give you an insight of NY at that time.
As Fin grows up, Lady is his best friend, his sister, his mother, his companion.  Full of fun, but with an unsettling view of men, marriage, babies.  It takes some time for Fin to unravel her life and what she thinks.  The book is told by someone who was close to them both, although you will not come to find out who that is until towards the bittersweet ending of this lovely novel.  Just the kind of book to curl up by the fire with; or as Spring comes along, to find a patch of sun somewhere, to start at the beginning and just go for it.