Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird influenced me greatly as a young reader. While Atticus was the hero of that book,From my blog www.lindacollison.com
Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird influenced me greatly as a young reader. While Atticus was the hero of that book, I identified with young Scout, a tomboy (as I was) who revered her father (as I revered my own.) The book gave me a different perspective of racial inequality and injustice, but more than that, it was a story of the coming-of-age of a white girl in the deep South, raised by Atticus, her principled father and Calpurnia, his housekeeper/cook/nanny. I saw her insular town in Maycomb County, Alabama, through her eyes and learned of Southern manners, respect, ignorance, prejudice, bigotry, hypocrisy, incest and rape through her eyes – which is to say, through the author’s eyes. The fact that the story was told by a white girl does not diminish its importance. In fact, white people were instrumental in African Americans gaining their rights. Some of those white people were women.
Had Go Set a Watchman been published it would have set the world on its ear, back in 1960, less than a decade after Brown vs Board of Education and eight years before Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. It was radical for its time – too radical.
Go Set a Watchman was written before Lee’s Pulitzer Prize winning “first novel” and was rejected. To me, it is a much more honest book, more straightforward, less crafted. From a writer’s point of view, it shows signs of being an early work, particularly the second half when Scout tends toward diatribes. Some reviewers have called it “flawed.” Of course it’s flawed, as are most books, particularly first books.
The art of writing — the craft of writing — is a process. Books don’t just spring perfectly formed, from a writer’s forehead. Stories have a way of morphing themselves and in fiction, even more so. A story – the same story – can be told from many different viewpoints. Stories are our parallel lives. They are all happening simultaneously, they are all true.
The best fiction isn’t about issues; the best fiction is about individuals. In telling one person’s story you tell a vital part of the human experience. Harper Lee allows Scout to do a little too much preaching in To Set a Watchman, but it does reveal the main character’s passionate idealism, which was ahead of its time. Harper Lee was at the vanguard of the great era of social change the sixties would bring.
On one level Go Set a Watchman is the story of a young woman’s separation from her father. Everyone sees the obvious racial theme but who’s talking about the other underlying theme?
In 2015, feminism is dead — or at least in a deep coma. In another version of the same story (Go set a watchman to kill a mockingbird ) an older Jean Louise returns home from New York — not a perfect place but a place where she has become an independent person. She comes back to the home she loves and the father she respects and she finds that he – and her boyfriend, the man who expects to marry her – are not the men she thought they were. She is ashamed of them. This is a theme not often explored in literature – daughter against father, daughter separating to become her own person, and turning down marriage in the process.
Had Go Set a Watchman been published it would have set the world on its ear, back in 1960, less than a decade after Brown vs Board of Education and eight years before Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. It was ahead of its time.
Still, it’s greatest value to me, is the story of a young woman coming of age whose father has greatly disappointed her. Atticus is a man of his time. He’s not evil, he’s just a man, as is Hank, whose hand she refuses. Scout is her own woman and is guided by her own watchman. Scout is the hero of Go Set a Watchman, not Atticus. Apparently a lot of people were disappointed in that. I for one, thought it was an honest novel, with an autobiographical ring of truth that first novels often have. There are infinite ways this story could be written. Maybe someone can write it from Calpurnia’s point of view....more
"Don't be too hard on Jack Mallory. He's a better man than any you've run into on tortuga. You just don't know him." "Nor do I want to" Smith eyed her."Don't be too hard on Jack Mallory. He's a better man than any you've run into on tortuga. You just don't know him." "Nor do I want to" Smith eyed her. "Yer not too far different, the two of you, I'm of a mind. You both want revenge for yer fathers, and rightly so. In fact, Miss Cordero, you and Jack best start leanin' towards yer similarities instead o' yer differences. If you don't, neither one o' you might find Logan and the grave you want to send him to." -- from The Prodigal, by S.K. Keough.
This first novel is a well-crafted, action-filled nautical tale. Set in the West Indies and South Carolina during the brutal age of Piracy, it is the story of a quest for rescue and revenge.
Jack begins the story as the boy "John" but emerges from Newgate Prison years later as "Jack", an angry young man bent on finding the pirate who shattered his life by murdering his father and taking his mother captive. In this story pirates are not glamorized, nor is the protagonist, yet it still has the feel of Pirates of the Caribbean, with a sincere but bitter Orlando Bloom and a spunky Keira Knightly in the starring roles. There is tension between the protagonist Jack and Miss Cordero, who are at odds with one another although they are both after the same pirate, Logan, who also murdered Maria Cordero's father. Both Jack and Maria have their side-kicks, which adds interest to the tale. But for me, the gutsy Maria Cordero steals the show. ...more
Eleanor's Odyssey is an important addition to Joan Druett's oeuvre of nautical and maritime history -- particularly history as as experienced by womenEleanor's Odyssey is an important addition to Joan Druett's oeuvre of nautical and maritime history -- particularly history as as experienced by women. Druett is among the leading experts on women at sea in the age of sail, and she also writes novels set largely at sea. In this, her latest nonfiction book, Druett allows Eleanor Reid, young wife of merchant Captain Hugh Reid, tell her own story in the form of a diary written as she accompanied her husband on a voyage from Ireland to Australia to deliver Irish convicts and political prisoners to the penal colony; the ship then continued on to the Spice Islands and India, under contract with the East India Company.
Druett, without interrupting Eleanor's observant travelogue, then expands and enhances our understanding of Eleanor's world in separate chapters that fit seamlessly and add great value to the wider historical picture and immensely adding to the reader's experience. The trade paperback book is beautifully illustrated throughout with bibliography and index, and I recommend it over the kindle edition. Eleanor's Odyssey is a valuable addition to the Joan Druett section of my library. ...more
This second collection of short stories from the author of Drowned Boy, recipient of the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction, captured my attention fThis second collection of short stories from the author of Drowned Boy, recipient of the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction, captured my attention from the very beginning. Each story is about a different character and situation, yet most of the people he writes about are somehow marginalized and struggling against the tide. His characters, his plain but evocative settings, his spare but freighted dialogue reveal the hidden corners of our humanity, shedding light on the longings, the desires, the want that we all know. He deals with issues -- bigotry, ignorance, social class, apathy – without ever mentioning them by name, without judgement, but with occasional gleams of wry humor. I identified with his narrators, felt their despair and their realization, their coming to terms with life. I finished the book and began to re-read, savoring little gems of description, characterization, and meaning. ...more
This coming-of-age in the 'sixties novel is multi-layered and more complex than I expected it to be. The narrator's voice is deceptively simple, reminThis coming-of-age in the 'sixties novel is multi-layered and more complex than I expected it to be. The narrator's voice is deceptively simple, reminding me of Scout's voice in To Kill a Mockingbird, yet the themes in the story go beyond a simple ghost story. In fact, I was a bit shocked to discover the big secret. As a writer, I really appreciated Dzikowski's skill in crafting the novel. I appreciated all the references that pinned it to the turbulent sixties. A social and psychological coming-of-age novel with historical elements - and with themes as relevant as ever in the 21st century. ...more