I am trying to decide whether or not it’s worth it to keep going with I Always Loved You by Robin Oliveira. I am about 100 pages in, and it’s still not grabbing me. I have read that it’s a slow starter, but there is slow and there is glacial. I guess the real kicker for me, too, is that it’s historical fiction, and I’m not really learning much. The people are not jumping off the page for me. I guess I have answered my question. Makes me sad because I invested a good amount of time in it and was so looking forward to it. I will be even sadder if I invest more time in it, and there never is a payoff. Anyone read this book and care to comment?
On the plus side, as I put this book aside for a while, I managed to finish several books. Reviews up:
- Mrs. Dalloway, Virginia Woolf
- Shadeland, Andrew Grace
- Unless it Moves the Human Heart, Roger Rosenblatt
I enjoyed all three and read each of them quickly (for me). Given the amount of time I’ve spent on I Always Loved You, I haven’t moved much. Oh, I hate to give up on a book. I don’t have any real sense of failure or anything; it’s just that I really wanted to like this one. I mean really! And Susan Vreeland, one of my favorite contemporary writers who writes about art, gave it a lovely blurb.
In other news, Go Set a Watchman is being released on Tuesday, and it’s been all over the news because you can read the first chapter, which drops a big bomb in a shocking, matter-of-fact way. However, a lot more hay has been made out of Michiko Kakutani’s revelation that Atticus is a racist. People who are surprised by this revelation are forgetting a few crucial points:
- To Kill a Mockingbird is narrated by a young girl (and granted, a grown woman, to a certain extent) who idolizes her father. We so want to see the best in our loved ones.
- Atticus is a bit saintly in TKAM. Could it be that this is Lee’s attempt to show the inherent contradictions in people? Don’t we all have someone in our lives whom we love… but who holds opinions we hate? If you agree with everyone in your family on every aspect religion, politics, and civil rights, well, you’re pretty fortunate. It is possible for the Atticus in both books to be the same man. Actually, it’s fairly interesting. Do we wish Atticus were not racist? Naturally we do. In the same way we wish our own family members would just have a different view about ______. Right?
- It is possible for a person like Atticus to feel like he should defend Tom Robinson and still not want his grandchildren to go to school with the Tom Robinson’s grandchildren. People have an amazing ability to compartmentalize. Yes, they might say, I believe black and white people can marry if they want to, but they shouldn’t have children. Or yes, they might say, I believe gay people have the right to go about without being assaulted, but they shouldn’t marry. A lot of people have lines they draw. Atticus might feel that it isn’t fair for a black man to be wrongfully accused of rape and go to prison for it, but that doesn’t mean he is interested in equality.
- Atticus is older. Sometimes, as people age, they grow more frightened of the “other.” And think about what the Civil Rights Movement may have looked like to an aging man who was frightened of the changes it meant. He might have been more tolerant in a time when it didn’t look like things would change so drastically. I don’t know about you, but in this year when there has been so much racial tension in the US, I have noticed more overt bigotry than I have seen in a long time. People are upset, so it’s easy to cast someone as the “other” and lump people together and stereotype based on prejudice. People are feeling in many ways as though their beliefs and the way they live are under attack. I have seen it. In 2015. Sometimes I wonder how it will look in 50 or 60 years when we look back on this year. Go Set a Watchman alludes to a monumental Supreme Court case (presumably Brown vs. the Board of Education of Topeka, KS.). We had a monumental decision this year, too. And a lot of people felt attacked by it.
I am not excusing Atticus. I am also not saying not to be disappointed in Atticus. I am, too! I would love for him to be the hero, the man ahead of his time. But it might be premature for us to be dismiss the book as untrue to his character. After all, how can we know it is? We only know what Scout told us before, and what we do learn from reviews of GSAW is that Scout herself is disillusioned by what she learns about her father. We all know people who have views we might consider contradictory, and people change over time. Time has passed from TKAM to GSAW. I am still going to read it.
I found some other related links you might find interesting:
- Playing Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird changed my life
- The Guardian’s review
- The Courthouse Ring: Atticus Finch and the limits of Southern liberalism (Malcolm Gladwell is quite the astute reader of Atticus’s character and picked up on nuances many people missed)
- The Atlantic explores the way the gay marriage decision has split public opinion in two
Added to my TBR pile since last week:
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