I think I'm giving this a higher score simply because I recently visited Venice and therefore had a point of reference as I read. I mean it is good, nI think I'm giving this a higher score simply because I recently visited Venice and therefore had a point of reference as I read. I mean it is good, not quite as compelling as Berendt's first book, but along the same lines--a crime in an historical setting and a cast of very interesting, real-life "characters."
This book sat on my night stand for YEARS, until I picked it up a couple of weeks ago. I don't know what I was waiting for, but I'm glad I waited until now. It did take me longer than it should have because I kept googling images and references and then comparing them to my journal and pictures. Venice is a unique place and Venetians a hardy, quirky lot. While I don't recall seeing the rebuilt opera house which is the centerpiece of the book, Berendt's experiences definitely reinforce what we were told about the city and its residents.
I enjoy this author's approach to non-fiction, and I am a hard-sell there....more
Much has been written about this book in the last several months. Because To Kill a Mockingbird is my all-time favorite book(I practically have it memMuch has been written about this book in the last several months. Because To Kill a Mockingbird is my all-time favorite book(I practically have it memorized), I was interested in reading all the background info of how this came about. Then the reviews started and I peeked, but I really tried to stay away because I wanted to form my own opinion.
First, I think we have to remember that this is essentially an unpolished manuscript. It was handed back to Harper Lee by her publisher with the suggestion to rework it from a child's perspective. That rewrite became TKAM and this book was set aside. So it is rough in spots, but Lee's style is very evident. The Southern humor, so evident in Finch family, the wonderful descriptions of Maycomb and its residents--these are the things I love about TKAM, and they are present here. Lee's ability to make us chuckle in some spots and tear up in others is what makes her writing special.
At first, based on what I was hearing, I tried to read it as separate from TKAM, not necessarily as a sequel. The same characters appear and there are references to the "past," but this book presents a different world. Now that I'm done, I think the two books work very well together. I've read a lot of criticism of Atticus, calling him a racist, but I found the very same Atticus who retains his patience and love of justice while trying to come to terms with a rapidly changing South. When push comes to shove, I'm gonna believe Atticus will do the right thing. I also see this book almost as a second coming of age for Scout, who grew up a fair amount in TKAM, but as a 26 year old who now lives in New York, she experiences another epiphany as she comes to understand her place in the world.
Atticus is merely a product of his time, as Jean Louise is of hers. The title intrigued me from the moment I saw it. I assumed it was biblical but I didn't know its context. The full quote, from Isaiah, is "Go, set a watchman; let him announce what he seeth." I read that this is the title Harper Lee had chosen for Mockingbird but, again, the publisher advised that she change it. As I read, the significance of the quote became apparent and I see as appropriate for either piece. We must all set our "watchmen" to guide our lives. When we develop our own consciences, and begin to live by them, that's when we finally become "grown," as my students call it the moment they turn 18. I see this second (first?) book almost as a natural passing of the torch from an older generation with traditional values to a younger, more progressive generation who will create a new normal. The elder Finches want this to happen, but it takes a while for Scout to catch on.
Harper Lee is just so cool. How wise she was at 34 or so when TKAM was published. I just want to hang out with her....more