Saturday, July 16, 2016

Harper Lee: Go Set a Watchman


Starting a blog about my reading is presumptuous as hell because it seems as though I am saying that my thoughts and musing about my reading are so very readable. But I know that they are not. I know that my reading is rather mediocre and that my opinions and reviews about books are fairly pedestrian.

But I decided to do this blog anyway because sometimes I run across a remarkable book among the many stacks that is so worth sharing or that I simply need to talk about. That's why this blog exists. But this next book is not one of the remarkable books. It's a good one, but not remarkable.

While reading the book I was talking with a friend who expressed an opinion that surprised me, that Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird is probably not a Great American Novel and that she doesn't support its being included in most high school required reading lists. I had to stop and think about that one.

So much happens in the world that we all just go along with, without question or with out questioning. Even though I like to think that I question question question, still reading TKAM was one of those thigs for me that I simply accepted as fact: To Kill a Mockingbird is a Great American Novel. In fact, my son is reading it right now for a high school reading book and he's enjoying it very much.

I guess I'll leave it up to you what you think about TKAM. I think I will always love it. It takes me back to my childhood (in the 60's) in a small town where things were slow, we were all generally innocent (read: we didn't question what was), and bad things and good things happened around us all of the time and we just lived with them.

Go Set a Watchman was published in 2015, though it was written in the 1950s, a draft that was written and rejected. It was not originally written as a sequel to TKAM but was an early draft written as a stand-alone novel. Although the events of the novel occur twenty years after those in TKAM, it is helpful to know that Go Set a Watchman was intended as a novel on its own. However, most of us of this era will always view the newer novel as a sequel because of the updating of characters' lives and because of the seeming resolution of Scout's move from young person to adult.

The book opens up as Scout returns to Maycomb after being in the Big City for about a decade, living on her own. Viewing the smaller town through her eyes is more than a right of passage, it is an eye-opener that almost everyone who has ever lived in a small town has experienced. Not surprisingly Scout has grown into a quick, smart, accomplished young woman.

She is still likable, Scout with her sharper edges. Visiting her aging father, Scout reminisces about absent people and important childhood events (Oh no, I'm not letting the cats out of the bags) as she struggles to figure out her relationship with her boyfriend, Henry Clinton, a reputable young lawyer in Atticus’s practice who hopes to marry Jean Louise one day.

Scout seems to be just about ready to enter into a commitment with Henry Clinton when she learns, to her shock and dismay, that Henry and Atticus are members of a Klan-like organization in Maycomb called the Maycomb County Citizens' Counsel, a group established after 
Brown v. Board of Education, designed to appear as a respectable organization for the good business people of Maycomb 
but is, truly, a means to empower those who support racial segregation. 

Scout makes this discovery, that her father openly supports community 
framework for racism, and it rocks her entire world.

I enjoyed it enough to finish it but not enough to recommend a read. It's not bad and worth a read if you are a fan of KTAM, if only to get further idea of what was in Harper Lee's mind when she wrote that book. Scout is likable and her struggle is relatable. I do feel as though some further processing could have gone on with Scout and between she and her father. As well as between she and Henry.

My favorite quote from the book comes from a conversation between Atticus and Henry; Atticus says: Don't push her. Let her go at her own speed. Push her and every mule in the county'd be easier to live with. For cutting Atticus down to an average man of his time, I give the book a zero. For some good and interesting writing that feels like a familiar and likable Scout in Maycomb, I give this book a six. Average that out and I give it three stars.

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