Chapter 2…

Ahhh…Atticus.  I hate this book for opening up by taking a mountain of a man and making him human.

Pocket watch reference…nice tie back/forward (???) to Mockingbird!!

“…She could not remember him being any younger, and he seemed to grow no older.” (17) Me either, Jean Louise.  Atticus will always be Atticus to me.  It reminds me of the way I think of my own father.  Atticus has always reminded me of my own father — his wisdom, his strength, his notions of right and wrong.

I get it.  Atticus physical strength is waning, but mentally he’s still there.  Got it.

“his daughter’s daemon” — Scout’s anger…her temper.  That’s the Scout we know…the one who makes judgements quickly and harshly.  This is both before and after Mockingbird, so it’s interesting to watch the interplay.  The lessons Scout learns in Mockingbird SUPPOSEDLY have already been learned — but they haven’t actually been WRITTEN yet…so it’s something of a paradox.  But…even with lessons we learn, Scout’s impetuous nature is who she is…so it’s not surprising to see it here.  Though going after her Aunt that fast seems a bit overboard maybe?

“I am oppressed, Atticus.”

“Then go back to New York and be uninhibited.”

Ahhhh…yes. LOL.  There’s a North/South thing brewing here too…Southern society, Southern girl whose gone North….Civilized vs. uncivilized…big city vs. agrarian society.  Atticus as the middle line here…And another reference to his brokenness….

Golf…I feel like I’m reading Gatsby and waiting for Jordan to float up from the sofa.  Jean Louise dressed (shockingly) in slacks, setting a golf date with Atticus.  What is this book??

I’m having a hard time with dates.  If Atticus is in his 70s, then I’m thinking this should be set in the 1950s? But no firm date as of yet….and with Mockingbird published in 1960, Lee couldn’t have written this set in the mid 60s Civil Rights movement.  The reference on p.24 to “the bus strikes” and “the Mississippi business” seem to suggest mid 1950’s (Montgomery bus boycott 1955, Emmett Till Murder in Mississippi 1955, Brown v. Board 1954).  I *think* “The state’s not getting a conviction in that case was our worst blunder since Pickett’s Charge” (24) most likely refers to the Emmett Till case — The murder is one of those moments where something that had been happening for years happened in such a way that it changed history.  Emmett Till’s death was tragic and heartless and horrific — and his mother’s strength turned it into a martyrdom for a cause.

I know I have 60 years of history standing between Scout and I at this moment, but her cavalier comments  (“to hear the Post tell it, we lynch ’em for breakfast….I haven’t paid any attention to it except the bus strikes….worst blunder since Pickett’s Charge”) make it hard not to judge her in this modern light.  Making jokes about using the NAACP stickers on her Christmas cards to set off the people back homer compounds it.  I’m aggravated at Scout.  This isn’t who she was supposed to grow up to be.

Hopefully it gets better….right now she has to change for a date with Henry/Hank who isn’t OK with her wearing slacks (hello 1950s), and I have to go to bed.  Chapter 3 tomorrow…

Chapter 2…

Chapter 1

Before we get started, a few thoughts.

The cover:  Very retro.  I’m not sure I’m a big fan of that.  It feels a little forced.  Then again, a new, shiny, modern cover would have felt forced in a different direction, and a plain, solid colored cover with yellow words would have felt too JD Salinger.  So I guess retro it is.   (Note how big Harper Lee’s name is….2/3 of the cover is taken up with “AUTHOR OF TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD HARPER LEE.”  Pretty clear why this book made it all the way to publication, and not a strong support for the “we’re publishing this on it’s own valor” argument.  This cover has $$$ all over it.)

The Dedication:  This may be the most honest part of this whole story.  “In memory of Mr. Lee and Alice.” Mr. Lee — Harper Lee’s father, and the widely accepted foundation for the beloved Atticus.  Alice, Harper Lee’s sister, who died in 2014, a mere 3 months before Watchman was ‘miraculously’ found.

I am struck by the comment in Alice’s obituary article that “Harper Lee disavowed the book, asserting that “rest assured, as long as I am alive any book purporting to be with my cooperation is a falsehood.” Interesting.

Here we go…

The first page is weak.  The description seems forced (why specify a “Negro” house?) and heavy handed.  It’s awkward to hear our beloved Scout referred to as “Jean Louise.” (Then again, I guess it wouldn’t be awkward if we met her as Jean Louise and she became Scout later?) Also, no pilot flies through a tornado.  Not in 2015, and definitely not in 1960s.  Just say she chose to take the train — heck, the Atticus explanation is more than enough.

Ahh, sweet Atticus. I hate the image of you getting old.  You are imortalized in my mind as Gregory Peck standing at the door of Jem’s room….

I have to force myself to stop comparing this to Mockingbird.  To stop looking at it as a sequel.  It’s hard to remember that when she wrote this, she expected IT to be “THE BOOK.”  Mockingbird came later. Thus the Faulkner like creation of a place…the family history.  She’s creating the Finch family for us…only we already know them.

Ewww..Scout kissing??

“Well, what if everything shuts off and you don’t have any gears to shift.  You’d be in trouble then, wouldn’t you?”

“But everything won’t shut off.”

“How do you know?”

“That’s what faith is.  Come here.”  (11)

— Ahhh…fodder for thematic development.  Scout is going to struggle with losing control.  It’s already been hinted at with the references to Atticus illness, and now this line.  She’s worried about losing Atticus (who I assume is still her rock,) and worried about losing control of her life if she accepts Henry’s proposal (see: “come here” and “Love whom you will but marry your own kind….Henry Clinton was Jean Louise’s own kind…” (9))

WHAT?!?!?  JEM IS DEAD???!?!  LIKE THAT?!?!? “Jean Louise’s brother dropped dead in his tracks one day, and after the nightmare of hat was over, Atticus, who had always thought of leaving his practice to his son, looked around for another young man.” (13) You just replace Jem like THAT?!?!  With one sentence?  Oh well, Jem died so Atticus took in Henry?!?! Plus, what a strange dynamic that makes?  Henry who filled in as Scout’s brother for Atticus is now asking to marry her?  That’s a pretty twisted family dynamic, even for the south. (Calm down…I’m from the South.  I can mock because I do it with love.  “Bless their hearts…” 😉 )

“Although she still moved like a thirteen-year-old boy and abjured most feminine adornment, he found something so intensely feminine about her that he fell in love.” (13)  There I see the shadow of Scout emerging….

“He would protect her; he would marry her.”  (13) yep…Jem/Henry are blending into one person….

Sex jokes do not fit with my mental Scout.  I’m having trouble picturing her grown up.  Even with the repeated “Jean Louise” references.

“Love’s the only thing in this world that is unequivocal.” (15).  There’s another big theme.  We already know Scout is struggling with love in regard to Henry (the brother/lover), I’m willing to bet (even without reading other reviews) that love and Atticus are going to be a another big element here — because SCOUT’S love for Atticus is absolute…’unequivocal.’  But Scout is a child, and Jean Louise is a woman (??) so that definition is going to need adjustment.

Thus endeth chapter 1.

Well, we’ve ‘met’ Scout…I mean Jean Louise, and her sometime beau, not quite brother Henry/Hank. We’ve heard about Atticus, and so far he’s the Atticus I already knew — firm, strong, reliable, a bit of a twinkle in his eye pointing out the darkness to the light.  We know Jem is dead (SOB! TEARS!), and we know Scout has this on again off again thing with Henry/Hank because she’s a “modern woman.”  (Doesn’t come straight out and say that but the whole ‘have an affair, he doesn’t deserve that’ fantasy combined with the New York visit and her thoughts on men scream it.)

Honestly? If I wasn’t reading this because of Mockingbird, I would put it back on the shelf and walk away.  But I am…so on to chapter 2.

Chapter 1

Here We Go…

I’m not entirely sure how to do this, so I guess I just jump right in.

I’ve been torn on whether or not to read Harper Lee’s new/old book, Go Set a Watchman.  On the one hand, I have to read it:   I’m an English teacher.  I’ve taught Mockingbird for years. I have something of a Daddycrush on Atticus.  I kind of need to know what happened to Scout and sweet Jem.

And there’s the train-wreck aspect.

Some posit that Lee (I really feel like I should call her ‘Harper’…. ‘Lee’ just sounds so formal, so unlike the characters and the world she creates.  But I’ll stick to etiquette.) Some posit that Lee didn’t really write all of Mockingbird…that Truman Capote had a heavy hand in it, and her editors played roughshod to make it what it was.

Some suggest Watchman was never intended to be published, that for Lee to do so now, after so many years of not just avoiding, but shunning any sort of fanfare — is a character turn.  The kind of blind change that would make us put down a book and say “this isn’t real….” Which leads the to inevitable questioning of the “caretakers” who have surrounded Ms. Lee since her sister’s death and who “stumbled” upon the Watchman manuscript.

Some just say Watchman is bad.

So I need to find out for myself.  But I don’t want to do it alone…. so I’m going to do it here.  With you.  My unnamed, faceless internet friends.  (Who may or may not exist, in all honesty.  Maybe it is alone.  But it FEELS less alone.)

It’s a journey, my friends…feel free to come along.

**Forewarning.  I’m essentially going to “live blog” the novel as I read it.  That means there will be spoilers.  If you want to disagree, or agree, or question my interpretations – go for it.  But don’t yell at me for ruining the plot.  I’m telling you now I’m going to ruin the plot!!**

Here We Go…