This literary piece is the story of M, who, as a young mother meets the Devil on a train in Paris. Subsequently, everything in her life goes bad. “I don’t think I realized how many parts of life there were, until each one of them began to release its capacity for badness” she says at the beginning of the novel.
M, who is married to Tony, invites L, an artist, to stay at their “second place” to paint. The marshland is beautiful, and M believes it will inspire L.
M might be in love with L and she might not. Even she doesn’t know. But when he shows up with the young Brett, M doesn’t like it.
A lot of the novel centers around M not feeling or looking like a female. She and Tony seem to simply co-habitate. She does the inside chores, he does the outside chores. Nothing seems to faze him and she wonders if he even sees her.
L is the devil, out to destroy M and her family. (He even tells M’s son-in-law that he’s going to destroy her.) Why she lets him stay on her property, I’m not sure.
In the end, L suffers a stroke. Tony and M’s adult daughter takes care of him. Then he leaves without notice. Later, the world learns that he has died in a hotel room in Paris. M then receives a letter from L from Paris (that someone found), apologizing for his behavior.
This book will appeal to literary readers who love introspection and symbolism with little action or dialog.
We watch as they find jobs, search for love, and eventually get married at a double wedding ceremony. Life seems to be fine until the big disagreement occurs. The twins feud over language usage, which is not surprising considering that they both work in the literary field. Daphne becomes a copy editor and Laurel, who is older by 17 minutes, is a poet/kindergarten teacher. It is not until after both parents pass away that the dispute really heats up. The treasured Webster dictionary is up for grabs and both girls want it. They become estranged for years, but it isn’t until after both women lose their husbands that they finally make amends. The twins decide to move in together just as they did when they were both starting out, and true to form keep their treasured dictionary close at hand.
Overall, I enjoyed this book, but it didn’t get off to a great start. I usually listen to books but could not get into this one. So, I broke with tradition and picked up the hard copy and I’m glad I did. What a fun bunch of characters. I was delighted by the twins’ antics. I found them to be funny, clever, and devoted to each other and yet at times they could be stubborn, unkind, and difficult. True to life, I believe the author was able to demonstrate human nature at its best and worst.
I thought the story was unique and intriguing. I felt bad when the sisters became estranged and was really rooting for them to make amends.
I loved the author’s writing style and enjoyed learning the meanings of the words presented at the beginning of each chapter. I am a new fan of Cathleen Schine’s work and recently read the Three Wesismanns of Westport, which I liked a little bit better. In any event, I will continue to read and enjoy more of her novels.Read-alikes: