Emory University history professor Joseph Crespino concludes that Lee’s approach to her famous character was an evolving idea—one driven by her relationship with her father, Amasa Coleman Lee ... Mr. Crespino shows a gift for copious research and nuanced interpretation. He deftly parses the region’s racial attitudes into a spectrum of views that reflected varying degrees of tolerance.
Although dismaying to some Lee fans, the belated publication of Watchman ... opened the door to serious scholarship like Atticus Finch: The Biography, Joseph Crespino’s crisp, illuminating examination of Harper Lee’s dueling doppelgängers and their real-life model, Lee’s politician father, A. C. Lee. Crespino ... A. C. Lee, who once chased an integrationist preacher out of the Monroeville Methodist Church, and his devoted albeit sporadically rebellious daughter, Nelle Harper Lee, both wanted the world to have a better opinion of upper-class Southern WASPs than they deserve ... Crespino demonstrates that To Kill a Mockingbird, while it is the superior storytelling book, wobbles morally in comparison to Watchman.
Mr. Crespino has written a nuanced biography, one that tells the twin stories of Harper Lee’s development of the character Atticus Finch and her relationship and ideological struggles with her father ... Crespino, however, does not try to align perfectly the events of Harper Lee and her father's life with their fictional counterparts. Occasionally, he does do so, with each direct parallel bringing its own thrill of recognition.
Crespino makes the fictional Atticus central to his study of Lee’s father, lawyer and newspaper editor A.C. Lee; Harper’s career as a writer; and, what gives the book heft, a close look at the Southern politics and civil rights struggles in the 1950s and ’60s from which Lee’s fiction emerged ... An informed look at Southern history refracted through the lens of fiction.