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, landing in Greenwich Village in the middle of the Swinging Sixties. He soon learns that Lady—giddy, impulsive, and pursued by an ardent and dogged set of suitors—is as much his responsibility as he is hers. Cathleen Schine’s Fin & Lady is a comic love story for the ages: an enchanting novel of a brother and sister who must form their own unconventional family in increasingly unconventional times.
Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. Fin & Lady begins in 1964. The civil rights movement, the Vietnam War, and the antiwar movement are undercurrents in the novel, as is the development of the Village folk scene. Why?
2. Do you think Lady was happy in New York?
3. What about Fin? He lost both his parents and his guardian is so unpredictable. Do you think he finds happiness in his new life in New York with Lady?
4. Why does Lady hate her father so much? Why doesn’t Fin?
5. Does Lady help Fin grow up, or does he grow up in spite of her? Why do you think he feels so responsible for her?
6. What do you think of Fin’s reading list? Do the choices tie in to the narrative, or are they primarily the product of Lady’s eclectic taste?
7. Minor characters, like Phoebe, Mabel, and Mrs. Deutsch, play a comic role in the novel. Is that all they do?
8. Of the three suitors, do you think any of them would have been a good match for Lady? What about Michelangelo? What is it she finds in him that the others were lacking?
9. Lady could have run away to any place in the world. Why does she end up in Capri?
10. Why do you think the author chose to use a narrator, and why reveal the narrator’s identity so late in the book?
11. Do you think Fin & Lady has a happy ending?
CATHLEEN SCHINE is the author of The Three Weissmanns of Westport, The New Yorkers, 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, California.