The Grammarians: Book summary and reviews of The Grammarians by Cathleen Schine

The Grammarians

by Cathleen Schine

The Grammarians by Cathleen Schine X
The Grammarians by Cathleen Schine
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  • Published in USA  Sep 2019
    272 pages
    Genre: Novels

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Book Summary

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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Reviews

Media Reviews

"As we've come to expect in 10 previous novels, Schine's warmth and wisdom about how families work and don't work are as reliable as her wry humor, and we often get both together...This impossibly endearing and clever novel sets off a depth charge of emotion and meaning." - Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

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." - Publishers Weekly

"The mother of the beguilingly unusual twins whose lives unfold in this sublime comic novel could not adore them more than I do. A singular delight for anyone who has ever marveled at the quirks and beauties and frustrations of English grammar, and a fascinating portrait of the passions and dramas of fierce familial love." - Sigrid Nunez, National Book Award–winning author of The Friend

"One might well expect a novel about dictionary-obsessed identical twins to throw off one clever, coruscating observation or bit of wordplay after another, like a kind of literary Catherine wheel. And The Grammarians certainly does that, and does it wonderfully well. Yet as I read on I found myself not only fascinated and amused―because, I must underline, it's often hugely funny―but deeply moved, because this is also a novel of great and often aching feeling." - Benjamin Dreyer, New York Times–bestselling author of Dreyer's English

"This is an utterly charming book, and yet more than that. It is a book of real people and their relationship―both to language and to each other. Fresh as a white sheet of paper, it is clean and lovely; an absolutely delightful read." - Elizabeth Strout, Pulitzer Prize–winning author

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Author Information

Cathleen Schine Author Biography

As a child, Cathleen Schine dreamed of growing up to become a graduate student. Years later, her childhood ambitions were realized when she entered the University of Chicago's graduate program in medieval history. There, it was noticed that she had no memory for names, dates or abstract ideas, and she was thus forced, tragically, to abandon her life-long dream.

Before this disappointment, however, while on a fellowship studying paleography in Italy, Schine made an important discovery: she liked to buy shoes. So when the welcome of academia was rescinded, Schine was able to pursue a career in this area which was rewarding but short-lived, as she could not get a job. In debt and increasingly desperate, Schine turned to the lucrative world of freelance writing.

Having failed as an ...

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Link to Cathleen Schine's Website

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