Well, my previous plan to read more, detailed in the last Fiction Friday post, went horribly ascue. Rather than place the blame on any action of my own, I've decided to blame the baby and her need to cuddle at bedtime, as well as a week spent in L.A. with a bed that had no reading light and a busy schedule of things to see and do. Then again, let's face it, it's also been my fault. But last week I did manage to finish the book I started weeks and weeks ago. It was a slower read than expected, mostly because I found myself unable to complete be immersed in the story. I can understand why there was a reluctance to publish this one, though I'm glad it was.
Originally written in the '50s, this was Harper Lee's original submission, before she wrote To Kill a Mockingbird. The manuscript was thought to have been lost, but suddenly turned up a few years back. It is rumored that Harper was not in any state to approve the publication, yet it was published anyway, which is notable seeing as how it changes many long-held perceptions of the characters in To Kill A Mockingbird.
This book follows Scout, now in her 20's and using her given name Jean Louise, as she returns home for a visit after living in NYC to attend school. Upon returning, she finds that the South has changed in her absence. In a classic "you-can-never-go-home-again" style, Scout (she will always be Scout to me) discovers that a lifetime of childhood experiences may not be what they once seemed.
Her discovery comes during a powerful scene where she watches her father, the much-beloved and respected Aticus, and Henry, the man she loves, attend a meeting of town leaders discussing why the recent Supreme Court ruling of desegregation needs to be circumvented in order to keep the African American population in their place and preserve Southern culture. The racism she encounters makes physically ill as her image of the two men who mean the most to her is shattered.
While the examination of systematic racism, as well as state's rights vs. federal overreach, are fascinating, I felt the character development was too Hemingway for my taste. The entire book was too Hemingway for my taste, with so much happening subtly. My favorite parts were certainly the flashback scenes of Scout and Jem, which I suspect were the publisher's favorite parts when the manuscript was first submitted and which is probably why To Kill A Mockingbird was written.
An enjoyable read, if not altogether enthralling. It's not really a surprise that the author never sought to publish this, despite it's merit.