For our second-to-last book club of the calendar year (Winter Break, is that you creeping around the corner?!), we had a special topic to discuss: Harper Lee’s “new book,” Go Set a Watchman. We also had our guest of honor, Ms. LaMay, give us her thoughts about the book. As most of you know, Ms. LaMay has been teaching To Kill a Mockingbird with her English classes for many years now. She is our Mockingbird expert!
We had a very crowded library for this lively discussion; the brownies and cider did not last very long! Ms. LaMay kicked things off by telling us how she felt about the book’s release: she didn’t think it should be published. In fact, the general consensus was that the book is nothing more than a staged literary event—a profitable boon to HarperCollins. Many agreed that Watchman would not have done well at all had it been published when it was originally written; the characterization is a bit off, and a few of the stories do not align. Ms. Fels said that while she enjoyed the first chapter, the story falls off a bit afterwards. And there’s much chatter about Harper Lee’s mental faculties being intact (let’s say she’s no longer a young lady)—perhaps it was cruel to bring this manuscript to the public eye. Ms. LaMay thinks it should only exist within the archives of the University of Alabama. Perhaps!
However, our conversation also highlighted the good points of this much-debated book. We enjoyed the childhood flashbacks (when the children “play Revival” in particular), and the story itself is historically accurate to the South during that time period. Ms. Melinson also brought up an excellent point: perhaps all the hoopla and frenetic energy to read this book will motivate people in the future to read To Kill a Mockingbird—which remains one of the best books of all time (your narrator might be slightly biased, here. She’s a fan!).