Skip to main content
Displaying 1 of 1
The Grammarians
2019
Availability
Large Cover Image
Trade Reviews

  Publishers Weekly Review

Schine's sparkling latest (following They May Not Mean to, but They Do) has a prickly underside that keeps it anchored to the daily stresses of family life. The tale of identical twins follows word-drunk Laurel and Daphne from their infancy, when they develop a language of their own, into a childhood in the 1960s during which they become obsessed with reading the dictionary, on through their diverging paths as a poet and a grammar columnist, and into an old age in which their differing attitudes toward words tear them apart. Along the way, they baffle their parents, frighten their psychiatrist uncle Don, and intrigue their cousin Brian. Eventually, each marries a mild, tolerant man, leaving the husbands to become easier friends than their high-strung wives. Both a fizzy exploration of the difficulties of separating from one's closest ally and a quirky meditation on the limits of language for understanding the world, the novel moves slowly through the first couple decades of the twins' lives and then more briskly through the rest. Though the work is deliberately paced, the affectionate tension between the twins provides enough conflict for a lifetime. This coolly observant novel should please those who share the twins' obsession with slippery language. (Sept.)
Summary
From the author compared to Norah 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.
Librarian's View
Displaying 1 of 1