by Harper Lee
Hardcover, 278 pg.
Read: August 14 – 15, 2015
Maycomb did not have a paved street until 1935, courtesy of F. D. Roosevelt, and even then it was not exactly a street that was paved. For some reason the President decided that a clearing from the front door of the Maycomb Grammar School to the connecting two ruts adjoining the school property was in need of improvement, it was improved accordingly, resulting in skinned knees and cracked crania for the children and a proclamation from the principal that nobody was to play Pop-the-Whip on the pavement. Thus the seeds of states’ rights were sown in the hearts of Jean Louise’s generation.
I don’t know what to think. I just do not. It’s that simple. I probably shouldn’t even be blogging about this one, but I feel compelled to.*
There are so many things that’d help me know what to think about this; for example: 1. if there wasn’t the cloud of controversy over the publication — did Lee really want it published? Is she of sound enough mind to make that choice now? and so on. 2. If there’d been a third book of hers published, it’d be easier to know which is the aberration — Mockingbird or Watchman (because there is a clear qualitative distinction) — it’d be easier to cut her some slack if we knew this wasn’t her typical work.
Am I glad I read this? I think so. There are phrases, sentences, paragraphs, vignettes, scenes, that I relished. I do think I like the story of Jean Louise here. I think I appreciate Atticus as father, not necessarily Atticus as a man making certain choices. I’m pretty sure I like Jean Louise’s Uncle Jack.
But there’s bits about this novel that just confound me. Some of the speechifying seems so out of place (and I won’t get into what I think of the points of them). A lot of the speechifying makes it seem like an unfinished draft — where Lee could’ve come back, fleshed it out, edited it and made the same points through dialogue, not monologues.
Maybe in time, after weeks/months of thought, a few re-reads, some distance, I’ll have an opinion about the book that I can stand behind. Right now, best I can manage is a shrug.
* And because I’m really close to having blogged about every novel this year, haven’t missed one since February — and I don’t want to break my streak.