Fin & Lady by Cathleen Schine

fin and lady

“Fin’s funeral suit was a year old, worn three times, already too small”.

I knew I wanted to read this book when I saw that it takes place in the mid-sixties, one of my favorite time periods. I love the music, the fashion, the films and the changing social and cultural norms. Fin & Lady opens in 1964 with the death of Fin Hadley’s mother. As his father has already died, he is left in the care of his 24-year-old sister, Lady. She sweeps him away from his Connecticut farm to her home in Greenwich Village where the bohemian, beautiful and fickle Lady raises him in a most unconventional manner (he goes to a progressive school that doesn’t teach math, etc). She enlists Fin to help her find a husband by the time she turns 25 and collects a trio of suitors who endure when everyone else falls away. But Lady doesn’t love any of them and searches in vain for the right man to marry her.

The problem lies with Lady’s obsession with freedom. She doesn’t like anyone or anything to restrain her lifestyle and has a habit of ruthlessly disentangling herself from emotional attachment. It makes her relationship with Fin a challenge and causes him to constantly question Lady’s commitment to raising him. As the years pass they broker a stormy yet mutual adoration until Lady’s 28th birthday. That’s the day that Lady disappears and the day their lives change forever.

Fin & Lady is such a joyous and funny book. I constantly chuckled and grinned over the clever dialogue and the banter. Fin is a great character – very precocious, curious and a huge reader. He is practical minded, but adapts to Lady’s erratic lifestyle and thrives in the chaos. Lady is also a wonderful character. She is one of the ‘beautiful people’ yet a free spirit and true sixties creation. Her unpredictability can be maddening but she has enough charm and wisdom to temper the crazy.

Most of the book is set in Greenwich Village and it is energetic and quirky – it must have been quite amazing in the sixties. Another chunk of the novel takes place in Capri and it is a lovely contrast. Peaceful, sunny and magical – Lady loves it and Schine makes the reader fall in love with it too.

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The novel is narrated by an unknown ‘me’ and part of the enchantment of the book is finding out who the narrator is – and it is a bittersweet discovery.

The more I think about Fin & Lady, the more fond of it I am. It really is sweet and fun and sophisticated and beautiful. Vibrant characters, fascinating setting and lots of humor – perfection.

6 thoughts on “Fin & Lady by Cathleen Schine

  1. There was an interesting review of this one in the New York Times last Sunday, too. I really enjoyed The Three Weissmanns of Westport and plan to give it a try. Who can resist 1960’s Greenwich Village?


  2. I’m so glad you liked this one! I really loved it…in fact, I think it might be to blame for my recent reading slump! It was the last book I read and really fell for. Such wonderful characters and perfect settings.


  3. I keep seeing this book popping up on emails I get from B&N, etc., and have been really drawn to its cover, but I think your review may prompt me to actually read it. I’m now especially intrigued by the unknown narrator.


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