17 June, 2021

This Bird Doesn’t Sing

For me, Jean Louise Finch will remain a promising child who passed away young.

This Bird Doesn’t Sing

Who can imagine Scout Finch grown up? Or Hol­den Caulfield? Or Mowgli or Peter Pan, for that matter? Pan couldn’t grow; Kipling, though he says “Mowgli later grew up and married”, wisely refrained from exploring that territory. Salinger didn’t want to. His good friend Harper Lee created her own seen-through-the-eyes-of-children world within a few years of Holden’s birth. And it would seem to this reviewer, who has read To Kill a Mockingbird at least 20 times, that she should have been  perhaps wise enough to know when she had a good thing going.

Now, after a few months of obfuscation, and charges and counter-charges, we finally have a book centred on a 26-year-old Jean Louise, which is strangely supposed to have been written first, before Mockingbird. Her editor, Tay Hohoff, read it in 1957 and advised her to write about Scout’s childhood instead. Good advice: for the only scenes which bring back the enchantment of Mockingbird are the flashbacks. Scout’s back in Maycomb on a two-week holiday...

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