Returning to Maycomb County

“For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seethe.”  Isaiah 21:6

The release of Harper Lee’s second book, Go Set a Watchman was a hot topic of conversation a couple of years ago.  I missed it.  Somehow I was otherwise distracted and so didn’t read anything about it or engage in any conversations other than the passing acknowledgement that it was available.

I came across a hardcover copy last year in a second-hand book store for $5:00.  It sat neglected for months until this last fortnight, when I could not settle into a book after reading a riveting crime novel.  Within moments of realising I was spending time with Atticus and Scout, I was drawn in and satisfactorily engaged.

To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee’s blockbuster, has long held a spot high on my list of favourite books.  Having to teach it to reluctant teenagers did not tarnish its lustre.  While I had a significant adjustment to make to the older Scout in Go Set a Watchman I was compensated by recollections of her childhood which provided a good and detailed account of the passage of time in the lives of many of the main characters.

My beloved Atticus, gentle, wise and honourable, who reminds me of my grandfather, was not as forward facing as I’d have liked.  And I’ll admit I was at first a little disoriented and confused by his portrayal, though I was delighted by the large roles of the critical and complex Aunt Zandra and the charming and captivating Uncle John.  I missed Jem and Dill and Calpurnia, though Lee cleverly fed me enough information to propel me forward.  This is not a novel about Atticus, neither perhaps was To Kill a Mockingbird though I made it so.  Go Set a Watchman is a coming of age novel about one Miss Jean Louise Finch. She probably narrated her 1930’s childhood summer at the age she appears in this current novel.

Though the narrative was disturbing and meandering it held my interest. It’s a powerful and brutal bildungsroman.  It’s a brutal coming of age for Scout and a brutal read for devotees who find the idyllic Maycomb ravaged and transformed by historical events.  The ample dialogue caused me some consternation and rereading when I confused speakers. The novel ends satisfactorily with an invitation for Scout to return to Maycomb, to join forces with others, who, through strength of character, righteousness and will, could set the moral compass for Maycomb and be the watchmen of the town.

What was your experience, returning to Maycomb County?


2 thoughts on “Returning to Maycomb County

  1. Do you know I was caught up in the hype at the time of publication of ‘Go Set A Watchman ‘. I adored ‘To Kill A Mockingbird ‘ , I equally loved Atticus too . Would you belive I read about two chapters and gave up . At ‘THAT’ time I just couldn’t read it so I took it back to the library . I don’t really have the desire to return to it , I felt let down by it , even after two chapters …funny isn’t it . Maybe we can never go back I don’t know . Hey I just remembered how let down I was when I re-read the ‘Famous Five ‘ series by Enid Blyton …I had grown up a bit by then though 😊.

    • Maybe we can’t go back Cherry. Especially when we forge such strong bonds with characters, time and place. I think I was just in the right zone to read this, another time I might not have finished it. Do you know, I never read the Famous Five series. Isn’t that gross oversight. I can’t remember any books I really loved as a child. I do remember however establishing firm bonds with a whole range of books and series as my son grew up. Through buying books for him and reading to him we shared many fabulous adventures, and so my ‘childhood’ books are really his childhood books.

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