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The Grammarians: A Novel by Cathleen Schine

The Grammarians: A Novel (2019)

by Cathleen Schine

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656279,341 (3.75)4
"Laurel and Daphne Wolfe, identical, inseparable redheaded twins, share an obsession with words. As adults making their way in 1980s Manhattan, their verbal infatuation begins to push them apart. Their fraying twinship finally shreds completely when the sisters go to war over custody of their most prized family heirloom: Merriam Webster's New International Dictionary, Second Edition"--… (more)



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Twin, n. A couple; a pair;two
Twin, v.t. To part, sever, sunder, deprive of.

And do a matching set of twins are born. Vibrant red hair, a precocious pair, who take to language early and never really stop from it being fascinating. Their closeness even into intimadated their mother, their was scarcely a thought that between them went unshared. What one knew, the other did. They even made of their own language. Words were important, are important and how it is used matter. Lauren and Daphne, one thought nothing would ever come between them. Until something did.

This book spans decades, following the family, the girls as they grow, start families and careers of their own. The author does a terrific job mixing humor, and there is a great deal of it, with the tragedies life seems periodically to throw our way. If you are a lover of words, care about their usage, grammar, this is the book for you. Words get top billing here, and the girls float through the many different ways they are used. Loved the characters, loved the writing, loved the word and definition listed before each chapter. It is a wonderful book about life and that shows the importance of words, their ability to heal and hurt, as well as their importance throughout history. Definitely the right book at the right time.

"Grammar makes you respect words, every individual word. You make sure it's in the place where it feels the most comfortable and does its job best."

"This is what words do, she realizes. They call out from the page and force you to listen. No, they allow you to listen." ( )
  Beamis12 | Oct 3, 2019 |
I love words, and I love stories about female friendship, especially this kind, where each friend looks to the other as a mirror, to help her figure out who she is, and as a window, to help her figure out what the world is. These two are twins, and they're both the kind of child who makes friends with a dictionary and tries to take it to bed in order to have someone to talk to.

In school, both Laurel and Daphne often had to clarify that they were themselves and not their sister. "No," they would say, "I'm the other one."
"I'm the other one," Daphne said in third grade when a little boy who had a crush on Laurel stuck paste in her hair. "I'm the other one."
"I don't care," the boy said, but he ran away to the far end of the playground.
"I'm the other one," Laurel said to the cafeteria lady who knew Daphne's love of Sloppy Joes and was ladling an extra gelatinous spoonful onto her hamburger bun.
The cafeteria lady said, "Oh! Well, you enjoy your meal, too, dear."
"How can we both be the other one?" Daphne asked Laurel.
They looked up "other" in the dictionary.
The entry was surprisingly long. "Other" was an adjective that meant one of two. It was usually preceded by a demonstrative or possessive word. Daphne liked the idea of a demonstrative word, imagining the word hugging and kissing "other," generally making a spectacle of itself, until their father explained that a demonstrative word meant, simply, a word like "this" or "that."

Then Schine opens the next chapter demonstrating two meanings of "every other":

Uncle Don and Aunt Paula and their little boy, Brian, came for dinner every other Sunday; and every other Sunday, Laural and Daphne and their parents went to Uncle Don and Aunt Paula and Brian's house for dinner.

I was thinking that Schine reminds me of Laurie Anderson, the way she plays with overloaded words; then one character used "O Superman" on his answering machine. When Laurel starts making poetry out of grammar samples taken from letters people wrote to the War Department, I was hoping for a reference to John Cale's "Cordoba". That didn't show up, but still, Cathleen Schine speaks my language.
  boxofdelights | Sep 26, 2019 |
Different sort of book. Who knew grammar and words and exquisite vocabulary could be so entertaining and touching. My favorite part was the letters sent to the war department from uneducated family members. They were beautiful and visceral.

Funny at times, annoying at others, but throughly enjoyable read.

Highly recommended. ( )
  Alphawoman | Sep 23, 2019 |
The book was great; the ending disappointing. ( )
  NKBarber | Sep 17, 2019 |
I grew up with a set of twins and we were close up until we went to college. I was never aware of a personal “twin” language but I was supremely aware that they were each one-half of a whole. They went everywhere together until they didn’t and not surprisingly much of their separation was due to an object they both coveted and of course the opposite sex.

But back to The Grammarians, Laurel and Daphne, identical twins, oddities, objects of “those stares”, speaking in their special language, communicating in ways only they understand. How difficult and dispiriting to acknowledge that they are one-half of a whole and longing to be more. They make those around them “uneasy with their secret words and language games”. Interesting, I was uneasy reading this book. There were so many words and thoughts based on words and confusion and maybe more than a bit of nonsense regarding all these words. But “this is what words do...they call out from the page and force you to listen.” I listened but there were so many words and so much back and forth in code and ugh, the split, the separation, the twin-ship torn asunder.

I found this to be a refreshing bit of writing which was sometimes amusing, often puzzling as the next verbal tangent went off into left field. Unfortunately the ending was unimpressive and lost the depth that Schine had managed through much of the book.

Thank you NetGalley and Farrar, Straus and Giroux for a copy. ( )
  kimkimkim | Sep 1, 2019 |
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TWIN, n. A couple; a pair; two
Twin, v.t. & i. To part, sever, sunder; deprive (of)

---Webster's New International Dictionary of the English Language, Second Edition
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That writer called," Michael said when she got home.
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