A Portrait of Harper Lee, from Scout to Go Set a Watchman
Author: Charles J. Shields
When I say the name Harper Lee I immediately think of To Kill a Mockingbird: I remember Scout and Jem, Boo Radley and Tom and Atticus Finch like I remember some of my own family memories. When I think of Hemingway I think Jake and Lady Brett; Faulkner is always Benjy the idiot, his sister Caddy, his brother Quentin. But only To Kill a Mockingbird resonates in my heart in a way that Hemingway and Faulkner do not. Harper Lee does not get the scoop that the greats like Faulkner and Hemingway, but she captured our hearts in her novel To Kill a Mockingbird.
So what happened? Why does her newly found manuscript Go Set a Watchman read like a first year creative writing student’s first draft? What is the real story behind Truman Capote, her lifelong friend and a strong character in To Kill a Mockingbird and why did she allow Capote to treat her so badly after she spent years helping him research In Cold Blood?
This truly marvelous account of Nelle Harper Lee reveals the characters behind her memorable novel, her father and family and friends. And it reveals her lifelong writers block after writing To Kill a Mockingbird, for Nelle was a true introvert, hating attention and liking her own small world where she was believed she was loved and sheltered. Loyal to a fault, Nelle adored and needed her older sister Alice; adored her father, a small time Southern attorney on which Atticus is based, and the troubles she had as she grew older.
Amasa Coleman Lee, Nelle’s father, was born in Georgiana, Alabama and his wife Frances Cunningham Finch was born in Finchburg, Alabama. In 1913 A.C. Lee moved to Monroeville Alabama to practice law at Barnett, and Bug, and in 1916 the firm became Barnett, Bug and Lee. Edwin, Jem in To Kill a Mockingbird, was born in 1920 and died young. Truman Capote, Dill in To Kill a Mockingbird, was four when his parents divorced and he went to Monroeville to live with family relatives until 1933. And Nelle is born in 1926. Capote never recovered from his parents dumping him with relatives and constantly sought attention and approval and even as a child, Nelle, a tomboy, gave it to him. In 1960 Harper Lee published To Kill a Mockingbird and described the 1930s small town life of Maycomb, Alabama where the trial of Tom Robinson, a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman, is defended by Atticus Finch, a rendition of Nelle’s father, A.C. Lee.
Mockingbird trills into a wonderful biography of a woman born out of her times, as Nelle Harper Lee proved strong in her opinions and character and never married but lived with her older sister Alice, an attorney, until her death. This biography reads like a novel and Shields never misses an incident or event as we fall into Nelle’s life and family.
Superbly written and taut with tension, Mockingbird proves wonderful reading as it reveals the life of an amazing woman and author.
Ratings are based on a 5-star scale
Review by Broad “A”
We received a product to facilitate our review. All opinions are our own
- You can pick up this book on Amazon.com here: Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee: From Scout to Go Set a Watchman or at a bookseller near you.