Having devoured To Kill A Mocking Bird for two years in preparation as the first batch of Nanyang girls to do English literature as an O’level subject, I had looked forward to reading this book like how I would be reunited to an old friend I have not seen in decades. I wanted to get reacquainted with Scout, Jem and Dill, and see how they had grown up. Alas, Jem has died and Dill has moved, and all that is left is 26 year-old Jean Louise returning to Maycomb from New York, practically a stranger to Maycomb and to us.
Written in the third person, this book explores the growing discord between the races as blacks gain more power economically and politically. Jean Louise has a shock discovery that Atticus is not the man she thought he had been all along- righteous, just, and colour blind; housekeeper Calpurnia’s aloofness towards her and the gap between herself and the town she grew up in.
We get glimpse of her teenage years, her first menstrual and pregnancy scare, and her first dance date, highlighting for the first time how Atticus could not fill the mother role like he did when she was younger.
I got confused by the many Amercian politics of that era, the politicians mentioned. Long arguments with Uncle Jack also lost me halfway. What appears to be class system in the South is lost to Jean Louise- negroes, white trash, and she, a Finch. She, who was taught never to take advantage of anybody who was less fortunate than myself, whether he be less fortunate in brains, wealth, or social position.
Perhaps I need my literature teacher to guide me as she did when I was sixteen. But I did take away these snippets of wisdom from Uncle Jack:
Every man’s an island, Jean Louise, every man’s a watchman, is his conscience.
Prejudice, a dirty word, and faith, a clean one, have something in common: they both begin where reason ends.
Just for that, I am happy Scout returned for a visit.