During my time of vision loss, this book was published, and I was devastated, as I couldn’t read it, and the audiobook was to take some time to be released. I must preface this by saying I am a massive fan of To Kill A Mockingbird, Harper Lee’s first novel from some forty years ago. I first read it in high school, and fell in love with the characters and the growing awareness the central character, Scout, develops of the racial tension going on around her. Her most patient and civilised father, Atticus, the local lawyer, helps her to navigate the complexities of small town Alabama.
Back then, I secretly wished I had a dad like Atticus. He was just so…smart. And patient, and aware, and courageous. I’ve grown to appreciate the very particular smarts my real dad has, but I still admire the Atticus-like qualities in the people around me.
On that note, I did not enjoy this book like I hoped I would. I get that perhaps it was an intentional statement by Lee, but it shattered the illusion of the original. In this book, Scout, or Jean Louise which is her real name, is a grown adult and returns to town from New York. Her perceptions of her town and her family are irrevocably changed by the things she sees when she returns. Her father shows a side of himself we didn’t see in ‘Mockingbird’.
I think I was hoping for more of the childlike innocence of the first book, but of course, as is true in the real world, we can never hold on to that innocence as we grow. Perhaps I felt the same sense of let down that Jean Louise feels; the shattering of illusions and the loss of childhood. I was a child when I read Mockingbird, and now, like Jean Louise, I’m all grown up, and it’s time to learn the truth.
What upset me the most about this book was that I don’t know that I can ever read ‘Mockingbird‘ the same way again. Maybe I wouldn’t be able to anyway because I’m so much older now, but it would’ve been nice to discover that on my own rather than having the illusion shattered in my face.
I appreciate what Lee is trying to do, and her writing reflects a changed social world, with a unique set of racial challenges. However, whatever poignant social point it is making, it just made me feel flat.