Go Set a Watchman
Mom and I truly anticipated reading this novel from the moment it was announced and we immediately placed it on hold at our local library. The book was published July 14th and mom’s name finally floated to the surface a week ago! So, let me say two things at the outset – first, the scuttlebutt is that Atticus is a racist. The second is that you can’t judge a character written 60 years ago by today’s standards. You have to judge him by the standards of his day.
Set in the mid-1950’s, the story goes that Jean Louise “Scout” Finch has been living in New York City for a few years and returns home to Maycomb, Alabama for a 2 week vacation. During that time she comes into her own as a young woman, and discovers, as all children must, her father is not the perfect man she idolized as a child; but instead, a regular human with foibles and qualities that combine to make the father she loves, Atticus Finch.
–Jean Louise “Scout” Finch, 26 years old and living in NYC, she comes home and begins to see her family and hometown for what they truly are – people who remember an idealized South and who are desperately clinging to the past for fear of an unfamiliar future. Her family expects her to marry and settle down in Maycomb and (not so) gently push her in that direction.
-Henry “Hank” Clinton, childhood friend of Jean Louise’s and although he has made good by working as a lawyer with Atticus, and in love with Jean Louise, is nonetheless ‘trash’ from the wrong side of town and is not the right ‘kind’ to marry into the Finch family.
-Atticus Finch, now 72 years old and mostly crippled by rheumatoid arthritis, still the level headed, calm and reasonable Southern gentleman.
-Alexandra ‘Auntie’ Finch Hancock, sister to Atticus and takes care of him; she is a thorn in Jean Louise’s side when it comes to the feminine side of life.
-Dr. John Hale “Uncle Jack” Finch, retired physician, Jean Louise’ uncle, brother to Atticus and Alexandra; helps his niece sort out conflicting feelings between her heart and her head.
The world Harper Lee created is rich and full of Southern character; it is funny and disturbing, enlightening and revealing. I have to admit my favorite parts of the book are when Jean Louise remembers her childhood antics with Jem and Dill. I loved the book’s Southern charm. And yes, by today’s standards Atticus and even Jean Louise could be labeled racist because of what they believe. But it pays to remember that when this book was written there were probably still people alive who remembered the Civil War – and slavery and if you were white and raised in the South you had a certain mindset – right or wrong – it was (and in some cases, still is) bred in you. And that is why we don’t judge this book or its character’s opinions. We accept this book on its own merits and understand it is not for everybody – but that doesn’t mean it is to be derided. This book deserves to be read and enjoyed for its story and the revelations it holds.
Rating 4 out of 5 paws because of its Southern charm and wisdom.
Also by Harper Lee: