The Grammarians is a delightful book about identical twin girls who love words. The book starts almost at their birth, when the girls talk in their cribs in their “secret language”. It progresses through their lives as they begin their passion for words, collecting words from a huge, old dictionary their father buys them, loving the “My Fair Lady” soundtrack, tormenting their uncle and cousin, moving out, and starting their careers. Their lives are joined, they have the same thoughts, and the author frequently asks – are they two parts of one thing or two separate things?
Eventually, their lives progress in different directions as they marry and become mothers. But as they pull apart, they end up with similar careers, both centering around words and grammar. This causes conflict (of course there is conflict – can’t have a story without conflict.)
The characters are well drawn – their loving parents, their uncle’s family, their husbands, and their work colleagues. Many are slightly eccentric, but all add charm to the story.
Although a light read, the story does say lots about not just “twinness”, but family, relationships, marriage, and growing up. The story is both fun and at many times funny. Each chapter starts with a word and it’s definitions (an entry from a grammar book). There are lots of references to obscure words, you will most likely learn a new word or two. My favorite was “oxter”, a word my Scottish mother-in-law used frequently (not going to give you the meaning – go look it up – that is what the internet is for).
I would recommend this book, especially if you spent time as a child reading the dictionary (which I will admit I did). For those who didn’t catch my title reference, “Show Me” lyrics from “My Fair Lady”.