From reviews and buzz I had read about Go Set A Watchman, Harper Lee’s much anticipated second novel, I had expected more dissent, dislike of the sometimes rough writing, disillusionment with the change in Atticus, disgust with the publishing hype, and perhaps even open political warfare! Nothing quite so exciting happened at our meeting, yet, like the book, it was an inspiring and moving discussion.
Two of our members had read the book previously and had not liked it; but reading it again, they really liked it. One member hadn’t liked the first half, but by the end he understood why his wife had been compelled to read it twice in a row. Another felt that he now understood more about the South and the Civil War. Still another found it easy to read.
We discussed a bit about the development of character: Atticus from the beloved icon in To Kill A Mockingbird to the more realistic older lawyer; Scout to Jean Louise, a spoiled and lucky Finch; Henry, the suitor and young, Southern “white trash.” Would Uncle Jack have hit Jean Louise? Was Atticus racist? Was Jean Louise color blind? We weren’t all clear on how the book ended.
We agreed that there wasn’t actually a plot. We were so much more taken with the philosophy, the history. We all seemed to be watchmen, reporting on what we’ve seen – and read — over our varied lives. We wondered if the concept of “white trash” still exists. We wondered about the right to vote and one member suggested that politicians should be required to take a literacy test! We remembered being in all white schools and towns. We were amazed at the idea that there actually had been places with separate drinking fountains and bathrooms.
One of us remembered that she had been in a school with people of all the same race, but that they were mostly Christians, and Muslims were not understood, different. She had parents with good, Federal jobs, so she had been able to afford the bus, riding past three Caucasian schools, literally looking down on those who had to walk.
Go Set A Watchman made us think and recall and wonder. We’ve wondered much of this before. We didn’t resolve anything. We didn’t always agree. We don’t all know if we were changed because of what we read. Yet we made an us, without needing a them, all because of a book.
- Other Works Discussed:
- To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
- Puddin’head Wilson by Mark Twain
- The Help by Kathryn Stockett
- When The Killings Done by T.C. Boyle
- Destiny of the Republic by Candice Millard
- The Mockingbird Next Door by Marja Mills
- Same kind Of Different As Me by Ron Hall
- The United States Constitution