Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Review: Harper Lee's 'Go Set a Watchman' Argues over States' Rights

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Review: Harper Lee's 'Go Set a Watchman' Argues over States' Rights

Article excerpt

No, you can't go home again, Scout.

It's not just that you've outgrown overalls and that nickname, but your father has torn down your childhood home and built a new one some blocks away. World War II veterans have repainted their parents' old houses and raised new ones in former cornfields. Streets have even been paved.

Scout, aka Jean Louise Finch, doesn't care for all the improvements: "Conservative resistance to change, that's all," she says.

Still, the town of Maycomb is filled with memories of brother Jem, friend Dill and housekeeper Calpurnia (and the current attentions of a devoted beau). Yes, there are some good reasons for lovers of "To Kill a Mockingbird" to pick up the new novel by Harper Lee, "Go Set a Watchman," which went on sale Tuesday. The novel was actually written before "Mockingbird" but never released. Lee's editor suggested she write another novel from the perspective of young Scout, which became the Pulitzer Prize-winning classic.

But as news stories about "Watchman" have already made clear, readers, and indeed Scout herself, are in for a doozy of a twist: Atticus Finch, the humane lawyer who held his head up against bigoted townspeople while defending an innocent black man in "Mockingbird," has less liberal views in "Watchman."

Seems civil rights issues in the mid-1950s are more difficult to deal with than upholding the law during the '30s. Atticus doesn't want the U.S. Supreme Court telling Alabama to integrate its schools. A mockingbird might not hurt anyone, but the NAACP? Not in Maycomb's backyard.

"What would happen if all the Negroes in the South were suddenly given full civil rights?" he asks. "I'll tell you. There'd be another Reconstruction. Would you want your state governments run by people who don't know how to run them?"

Trying to judge "Go Set a Watchman" as a separate entity from "Mockingbird" is virtually impossible. The main characters are too well-known and dear to readers' hearts. And surprisingly, even though Lee wrote "Watchman" first, some of it actually works as a sequel.

For one thing, 26-year-old Jean Louise has become a proud New Yorker (she pushes back when jostled on New York buses) who is believable as a grown-up Scout. …

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