The Grammarians by Cathleen Schine

Staff Pick

The eponymous linguists of Cathleen Schine’s delightful, tender novel The Grammarians (Sarah Crichton, $27) are Laurel and Daphne, identical twins who fall in love with language early, speak to each other in their own native tongue of Blingo, and, until complications arise, play with words like toys. Almost dauntingly inseparable, the pair also struggle (or is it struggles?) with the boundaries of their individual identities. Named for the same mythic figure, as “identical twins…are they half or double?” They have a double wedding, each bears one daughter, then, even as language remains the focal point for each, their opposing views of it eventually divide them. While one becomes The People’s Pundit and writes a column on usage, the other appropriates examples of non-standard English for poems and stories. Schine uses the twins’ dispute to question the wider purposes of writing and speech, touching on attendant issues of class and gender. The real question, though, is how grammar, spelling, and punctuation combine into a story that brings out life’s deeper emotional resonances. In what at heart is a captivating novel of family, Schine writes with warmth and affection for her characters, brilliantly conveying the complicated dynamics of a group of people who don’t always understand or like each other, but who share unbreakable bonds.

The Grammarians: A Novel Cover Image
ISBN: 9780374280116
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Sarah Crichton Books - September 3rd, 2019

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