Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Take a trip to 1950s Alabama as Scout Finch goes home

Go Set a Watchman

Although Maycomb’s appearance had changed, the same hearts beat in new houses, over Mixmasters, in front of television sets

“No, they just like to look strange and mysterious. When you get past all the boa feathers, every woman born in this world wants a strong man who knows her like a book, who’s not only her lover but he who keepeth Israel. Stupid, isn’t it?”

“She wants a father instead of a husband, then.”

“That’s what it amounts to,” she said. “The books are right on that score.”

Henry said, “You’re being very wise this evening. Where’d you pick up all this?”

“Living in sin in New York,” she said. She lighted a cigarette and inhaled deeply. “I learned it from watching sleek, Madison Avenuey young marrieds—you know that language, baby? It’s lots of fun, but you need an ear for it—they go through a kind of tribal fandango, but the application’s universal. It begins by the wives being bored to death because their men are so tired from making money they don’t pay any attention to ’em. But when their wives start hollering, instead of trying to understand why, the men just go find a sympathetic shoulder to cry on. Then when they get tired of talking about themselves they go back to their wives. Everything’s rosy for a while, but the men get tired and their wives start yellin’ again and around it goes. Men in this age have turned the Other Woman into a psychiatrist’s couch, and at far less expense, too.”

Henry stared at her. “I’ve never heard you so cynical,” he said. “What’s the matter with you?”

Jean Louise blinked. “I’m sorry, honey.” She crushed out her cigarette. “It’s just that I’m so afraid of making a mess of being married to the wrong man—the wrong kind for me, I mean. I’m no different from any other woman, and the wrong man would turn me into a screamin’ shrew in record time.”

A black hand held out the check on a tray. The hand was familiar to her and she looked up. “Hi, Albert,” she said. “They’ve put you in a white coat.”

“Yes ma’am, Miss Scout,” said Albert. “How’s New York?”

“Just fine,” she said, and wondered who else in Maycomb still remembered Scout Finch, juvenile desperado, hell-raiser extraordinary.

Nobody but Uncle Jack, perhaps, who sometimes embarrassed her unmercifully in front of company with a tinkling recitative of her childhood felonies. She would see him at church tomorrow, and tomorrow afternoon she would have a long visit with him. Uncle Jack was one of the abiding pleasures of Maycomb.

“Why is it,” said Henry deliberately, “that you never drink more than half your second cup of coffee after supper?”

She looked down at her cup, surprised. Any reference to her personal eccentricities, even from Henry, made her shy. Astute of Hank to notice that. Why had he waited fifteen years to tell her?

Sign up to the Penguin Newsletter

For the latest books, recommendations, author interviews and more