Ailment: Putting someone on a pedestal
Cure: Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
In the case of Atticus Finch, we're all guilty. Who didn't put him on a pedestal after To Kill a Mockingbird? No other fictional character before or since has come to epitomise the courage it takes to stand up for the wronged minority while the majority bays for its blood. For the most part, fictional characters get to keep their pedestals. In life, though – and, it seems, in first drafts of novels, later made into sequels – pedestals topple and those we once admired are revealed to be as fallible as the rest. Read Go Set a Watchman to remind yourself that idolising people in the first place does both you and them a disservice.
Best summer reads 2015
Best summer reads 2015
1/23 Best summer reads 2015
The Girl In The Spider's Web will continue Larsson's story of Lisbeth Salander and Mikael Blomqvist
2/23 Best summer reads 2015
'The Buried Giant' by Kazuo Ishiguro
3/23 Best summer reads 2015
'The Story of the Lost Child' by Elena Ferrante
4/23 Best summer reads 2015
'Purity' by Jonathan Franzen
5/23 Best summer reads 2015
Milan Kundera’s 'The Festival of Insignificance'
6/23 Best summer reads 2015
Candace Bushnell’s 'Killing Monica'
7/23 Best summer reads 2015
Mikhail Bulgakov’s 'The Master and Margarita'
8/23 Best summer reads 2015
'Alice in Wonderland' by Lewis Carroll, first published in 1865
9/23 Best summer reads 2015
A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson
10/23 Best summer reads 2015
Roberto Saviano's 'Zero, Zero, Zero'
11/23 Best summer reads 2015
'It’s All in Your Head' by Suzanne O’Sullivan
12/23 Best summer reads 2015
Sunjeev Sahota’s 'The Year of the Runaway'
13/23 Best summer reads 2015
Benjamin Johncock’s 'The Last Pilot'
14/23 Best summer reads 2015
'Things We Have in Common' by Tasha Kavanagh
15/23 Best summer reads 2015
'The New Sorrows of Young W' by Ulrich Plenzdorf
16/23 Best summer reads 2015
Evie Wyld's 'Everything is Teeth'
17/23 Best summer reads 2015
'The End of Days' by Jenny Erpenbeck
18/23 Best summer reads 2015
Jane Hirshfield's 'The Beauty'
19/23 Best summer reads 2015
'The Beautiful Librarians' by Sean O’Brien
20/23 Best summer reads 2015
Miriam Toews 'All My Puny Sorrows'
21/23 Best summer reads 2015
'Rebecca' by Daphne du Maurier
22/23 Best summer reads 2015
Ezra Pound's 'Cathay'
23/23 Best summer reads 2015
'Emma' by Jane Austen
Twenty years have passed and Scout – or Jean Louise as she goes by now – is visiting Maycomb from her new life in New York. Now 26, she spends the first few days debating whether or not to marry Henry "Hank" Clinton – a childhood friend whom Atticus has taken under his wing. Still enjoyably outspoken, she fans the disapproval of Maycomb's genteel ladies by swimming in the moonlit river with Hank, and doesn't hesitate to tell her deeply conservative Aunt what a pill she is. But then she stumbles on Atticus and Hank sitting on the Citizens' Council – a local body only slightly less extreme than the Ku Klux Klan – and her world falls apart. Confronting Atticus, she – and we – are shocked to hear him question the pace of change demanded by the civil rights movement, and whether the blacks of Maycomb are really ready to vote.
Of course we reject such views, along with Jean Louise. But, unlike Jean Louise, we can see Lee's wider point – that Atticus, like most of us, gets things wrong sometimes. Embrace, as Jean Louise must, the inevitability of disappointment in mere mortals. Then put not the man, but the act of Atticus Finch, back up on that pedestal, where it belongs.
'The Novel Cure' by Ella Berthoud and Susan Elderkin is published in paperback on 3 September by Canongate at £9.99Reuse content