Schine, Cathleen The Grammarians: A Novel

ISBN 13: 9780374280116

The Grammarians: A Novel

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9780374280116: The Grammarians: A Novel
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An enchanting, comic love letter to sibling rivalry and the English language.

From the author compared to Nora Ephron and Nancy Mitford, not to mention Jane Austen, comes a new novel celebrating the beauty, mischief, and occasional treachery of language.

The Grammarians are Laurel and Daphne Wolfe, identical, inseparable redheaded twins who share an obsession with words. They speak a secret “twin” tongue of their own as toddlers; as adults making their way in 1980s Manhattan, their verbal infatuation continues, but this love, which has always bound them together, begins instead to push them apart. Daphne, copy editor and grammar columnist, devotes herself to preserving the dignity and elegance of Standard English. Laurel, who gives up teaching kindergarten to write poetry, is drawn, instead, to the polymorphous, chameleon nature of the written and spoken word. Their fraying twinship finally shreds completely when the sisters go to war, absurdly but passionately, over custody of their most prized family heirloom: Merriam Webster’s New International Dictionary, Second Edition.

Cathleen Schine has written a playful and joyful celebration of the interplay of language and life. A dazzling comedy of sisterly and linguistic manners, a revelation of the delights and stresses of intimacy, The Grammarians is the work of one of our great comic novelists at her very best.

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Review:

An Amazon Best Book of September 2019: Light-as-air but free of fluff, this funny, moving book plunges the reader into the life of identical twins Laurel and Daphne, “two names for the same minor Greek goddess.” From an early age, the parents are bewildered by their closeness and word play, which the sisters turn like a double-barreled shotgun on their psychiatrist uncle who finds them altogether unnerving: “’We revolt you.’ Laurel said, running past him. ‘We are revolting,’ Daphne said. ‘Against you,’ she added.”

The first half of the book, when Laurel and Daphne are always together, is just plain fun. The second half reminds you that the real pleasure here is the author’s heartfelt but unsentimental portrayal of how relationships change over time: the interior experience of growing apart from the person you love best, how a mother can go from an amiable stranger to a friend. The sibling rivalry between the girls' father and his brother is also spot-on and affecting. While the novel ends just as you’re in full thrall to the characters, this lithe slip of a story is too complete a pocket universe to regret it’s not longer. --Katy Ball

About the Author:

Cathleen Schine is the author of They May Not Mean to, But They Do; The Three Weissmanns of Westport; and The Love Letter, among other novels. She has contributed to The New Yorker, The New York Review of Books, The New York Times Magazine, and The New York Times Book Review. She lives in Los Angeles.

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