Book 11 – Go Set A Watchman, by Harper Lee

btyI don’t love To Kill A Mockingbird. To be clear, I don’t dislike it. It’s just that I don’t have the sense of reverence and awe in reading it that so many of my friends and colleagues do. I thought it was well written, but I don’t recall it changing my life. So when all the furore broke out over Harper Lee’s book, Go Set A Watchman, I wasn’t too worried about what it might do or not do to the original story. Instead, I simply determined I would wait until it was off the bestseller lists and everyone had drawn their own conclusions.

I’m glad I did. This story is set long after the events of To Kill A Mockingbird.  A grown up Jean-Louise Finch (“Scout”) is living in New York. She returns home to a town that hasn’t changed at all (The Coffee with her old schoolmates), but yet has changed dramatically, as race relations in the town have come to an all new high.

As she engages with her family now, she has flashbacks to her childhood. These vignettes are beautifully written, as indeed is the entire book. Lee’s turn of phrase is wonderfully evocative with words used sparingly. Every description is limited to enough words to conjure up a perfect image of how the character looks or acts or feels, without overburdening the reader with unnecessary details.

The story sees Jean-Louise coming to terms with the changes in her town but also in the changes to her hero-worship of her father, Atticus Finch. In fact the entire story revolves around the moment when Jean-Louise finally comes to the realisation that her father is not a hero, but simply a human man, with all the faults and failings that entails. The book also provides an alternative narrative to the changes taking place in 1950s America. The explanation of the resistance to change is detailed as a concern about the educational and intellectual abilities of black Americans, rather than a hatred of race.  True or not, it is thought-provoking.

This book was an absolute pleasure to read and one I would highly recommend to literature lovers. I passed on my copy to a friend, but would certainly have no problem putting this in my to-keep pile should a copy cross my path again.

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