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Va et poste une sentinelle (2015)
par Harper Lee
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First edition as new
I found this book a bit muddled at times. I did, however, enjoy seeing where Scout, Atticus, Jem, etc. ended up (though this was written before To Kill A Mockingbird), but the story itself was perplexing and seemed ... soft? ... in the middle. It lost momentum for me. I also had a hard time adjusting to the period the book was written (1950s), which featured plenty of paternalistic notions about black people in addition to discussions of racism.
I enjoyed how this read differently, as if from the view of a young woman. A good follow up. Enjoyed it.
I liked it. There have been too many comparisons to To Kill a Mockingbird, I think; same characters, yes, but totally different. The primary theme of course is race, but underlying that theme is another: the pain Jean Louise feels when she finally sees her father as human, with feet of clay, not as the god-like man she had placed on a pedestal. The writing style is a little uneven, but again, one must remember this was rejected by publishers when it was written. TKaM came out of this one and had benefit of editorial assistance, I'm sure.
Like so many others, I am a huge fan of To Kill a Mockingbird. As such, I was extremely excited to read this follow-up (at least how it was marketed).
There are elements of the book that are good. You can definitely see elements of Harper Lee's writing style, even if not quite polished. Many of the memorable characters from Mockingbird are also present in this book. However, there are a lot of things in this book that make it far inferior to its predecessor.
First, it felt like it was a little too drawn out, and it was less than 300 pages. Watchman could have easily been cut down into a short story, perhaps included as a bonus to future publications of Mockingbird. It struggles to find any plot for the first 100 pages as Scout attempts reintegrate into the community she grew up in. Then, suddenly, you are hit with the big shock, the one that makes you question everything you understand about her father, Atticus. From that point on, I was drawn in. I wanted to keep moving to see if it was true or if he had some reasonable explanation. It takes a while to get there, another 100 pages or so, as Lee weaves in flashbacks. In the end, you finally get his viewpoint. It isn't completely satisfying, but it is an explanation.
The flashbacks throughout the book are intriguing, and upon reflection they are important. However, you don't fully understand their purpose as you read the book. As a result, they make the storytelling a little disjointed.
Watchman is described as an early first draft of Mockingbird. Although there are major differences between the two stories, it is easy to see how that could happen. Unfortunately, it also means that Watchman really isn't a complete novel. As I said earlier, it could have used some heavy editing to link elements more clearly and reduce it down to a short story. That would have been adequate to tell this story.
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Shockingly, in Ms. Lee’s long-awaited novel, “Go Set a Watchman” (due out Tuesday), Atticus is a racist who once attended a Klan meeting, who says things like “The Negroes down here are still in their childhood as a people.” Or asks his daughter: “Do you want Negroes by the carload in our schools and churches and theaters? Do you want them in our world?” The depiction of Atticus in “Watchman” makes for disturbing reading, and for “Mockingbird” fans, it’s especially disorienting. Scout is shocked to find, during her trip home, that her beloved father, who taught her everything she knows about fairness and compassion, has been affiliating with raving anti-integration, anti-black crazies, and the reader shares her horror and confusion. “Mockingbird” suggested that we should have compassion for outsiders like Boo and Tom Robinson, while “Watchman” asks us to have understanding for a bigot named Atticus.
And so beneath Atticus’s style of enlightenment is a kind of bigotry that could not recognize itself as such at the time. The historical and human fallacies of the Agrarian ideology hardly need to be rehearsed now, but it should be said that these views were not regarded as ridiculous by intellectuals at the time. Indeed, Jean Louise/Lee herself, though passionately opposed to what her uncle and her father are saying, nevertheless accepts the general terms of the debate as the right ones.
Go Set a Watchman is a troubling confusion of a novel, politically and artistically, beginning with its fishy origin story. .. I ached for this adult Scout: The civil rights movement may be gathering force, but the second women's movement hasn't happened yet. I wanted to transport Scout to our own time — take her to a performance of Fun Home on Broadway — to know that, if she could only hang on, the possibilities for nonconforming tomboys will open up. Lee herself, writing in the 1950s, lacks the language and social imagination to fully develop this potentially powerful theme.
Despite the boldness and bravery of its politics, Go Set a Watchman is a very rough diamond in literary terms … it is a book of enormous literary interest, and questionable literary merit.
It is, in most respects, a new work, and a pleasure, revelation and genuine literary event, akin to the discovery of extra sections from T S Eliot’s The Waste Land or a missing act from Hamlet hinting that the prince may have killed his father.
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Wikipédia en anglais (1)
Jean Louise Finch, dite Scout, l'inoubliable heroine de Ne tirez pas sur l'oiseau moqueur, est de retour dans sa petite ville natale de l'Alabama, Maycomb, pour rendre visite a son pere, Atticus. Vingt ans ont passe. Nous sommes au milieu des annees 1950, et la nation se dechire autour des questions raciales. Confrontee a la societe qui l'a faconnee mais dont elle croit s'etre affranchie en partant vivre a New York, Jean Louise va decouvrir ses proches sous un jour inedit... Chronique douce-amere de l'adieu a l'enfance, entre tendresse et ferocite, espoir et desenchantement, revolte et revelations, Va et poste une sentinelle est le deuxieme roman de l'auteur de Ne tirez pas sur l'oiseau moqueur mais fut ecrit avant son livre culte, prix Pulitzer en 1961. Si sa publication constitue aujourd'hui un evenement majeur, ce n'est pas seulement parce qu'il aura fallu attendre plus d'un demi siecle pour connaitre son existence, ni parce qu'il a d'ores et deja battu tous les records de ventes (plus d'1,1 million d'exemplaires en une semaine lors de sa parution aux Etats-Unis), mais aussi, et surtout, parce qu'il s'agit d'un grand livre, puissant, emouvant, derangeant un troublant miroir tendu a un monde qui, malgre le passage du temps, nous parle toujours du notre.
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Classification décimale de Melvil (CDD)813.54 — Literature English (North America) American fiction 20th Century 1945-1999
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