Saturday, July 30, 2016

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Yes I know, it took me an awful long time to get to this book. I'm making great use of my public library's digital collection, but it often means I have to wait a while for books. I finally got it!

I began reading this book amid news reports of the shooting of Philando Castile in Minnesota. On and off that day, and still continuing, our news was filled with the protests of "Black lives matter". This was the backdrop to my reading of Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman.

It was with this frame of mind that I read how Jean Louise Finch ("Scout"), returned home from New York. Her homecoming gave me opportunity to reflect on Atticus, her father, and on all of her childhood memories. The amazing thing about reading is that the events of a book somehow transform into events that affect one's own life - and this was what I felt as I read Go Set a Watchman. It was almost as if I had come home too.

But in the midst of a country in turmoil over violence, and a very real recognition of the way that people are treated based on the color of their skin, it was hard to read. I want to believe we have come so far since the 1950s, and the events of this month make me question that, in many of the same ways that Scout questioned her own father's beliefs.

I didn't come to any brilliant conclusions, but reading this book did help me see how far we have yet to come in our country. If you haven't had a chance to read it, I recommend that you do. I believe David Ulin, book critic from the Los Angeles Times, has some interesting comments to make on this idea as well.

The Last Anniversary by Liane Moriarty

The Last Anniversary is the story of Sophie Honeywell. The story begins as Sophie unexpectedly inherits a home on Scribbly Gum Island - a home that was owned by her former boyfriend's aunt. Sophie had broken up with Thomas Gordon shortly before the wedding, and she has spent years bemoaning the fact that she has still not met the man of her dreams. Did she make a mistake in letting him go?

When Thomas contacts her to let her know about the home she has inherited she assumes he is available and considers bringing him back into her life. She soon finds out, however, that Thomas is no longer single, having married his travel agent, and not interested in her at all.

Regardless, she moves onto Scribbly Gum Island and becomes involved in the family mystery: the mystery of the Munro Baby. Rather than uncovering the secrets of the family, Sophie becomes caught up in life in this crazy, unconventional group of people, and the mysteries only grow stronger.

The Last Anniversary was a fun summer book to read. It never got too complicated, and the story was told with a sense of humor, particularly in the last half of the book. Although not about The Last Anniversary, this is an enjoyable interview with Liane Moriarty.

The House Girl by Tara Conklin

The House Girl is told in two time periods: the 1850s and the early 2000s. New York lawyer Lina Sparrow is attempting to locate a plaintiff in a trial that would provide reparation for slaves and potentially become a historic class action lawsuit. In her quest to find the perfect plaintiff she comes across the artwork of artist Lu Anne Bell, from the 1850s.

In 1852 Josephine Bell was the house girl for LuAnne and her husband. Lu Anne's health is failing, and more and more Josephine finds herself abused and mistreated. She is determined to run away from the Bell's and all the family she has ever known.

These two stories come together as we learn that much of the artwork attributed to Lu Anne may actually have been painted by Josephine. Now it is Lina's job to find a relative in the case - someone who is willing to speak on behalf of Josephine.

This novel was beautifully written! I immediately recommended it to others, and I highly recommend it to you as well.

Enjoy this interview with author Tara Conklin: