About Me

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Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada
I am a lawyer in Melfort, Saskatchewan, Canada who enjoys reading, especially mysteries. Since 2000 I have been writing personal book reviews. This blog includes my reviews, information on and interviews with authors and descriptions of mystery bookstores I have visited. I strive to review all Saskatchewan mysteries. Other Canadian mysteries are listed under the Rest of Canada. As a lawyer I am always interested in legal mysteries. I have a separate page for legal mysteries. Occasionally my reviews of legal mysteries comment on the legal reality of the mystery. You can follow the progression of my favourite authors with up to 15 reviews. Each year I select my favourites in "Bill's Best of ----". As well as current reviews I am posting reviews from 2000 to 2011. Below my most recent couple of posts are the posts of Saskatchewan mysteries I have reviewed alphabetically by author. If you only want a sentence or two description of the book and my recommendation when deciding whether to read the book look at the bold portion of the review. If you would like to email me the link to my email is on the profile page.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Regina Mary Robichard and Jean Louise “Scout” Finch

Deborah Johnson
The reading gods can work in mysterious ways. The last book I read was The Secret of Magic by Deborah Johnson featuring 26 year old Regina Mary Robichard. A month ago I read Go Set a Watchman where the lead character is 26 year old Jean Louise “Scout” Finch. There was no plan to read the books so close together. I am grateful I did read them this summer. There are so many comparable characters and issues.

Both are set shortly after WW II with The Secret of Magic in 1946 and Go Set a Watchman in about 1955.

In each book the young woman is residing in New York City and travels to the deep American South. Regina is on her way to rural Mississippi and Jean Louise to her hometown of Maycomb, Alabama.

They travel by train which brings about the first difference in their experience based on race. Regina, a Negro in the language of that era which I shall continue to use in this post, is shunted in Richmond, Virginia to an inferior colored car for the balance of her journey. Jean Louise rides with comfort in the white section all the way to Alabama.

In each book lawyers play prominent and secondary roles. In important roles Regina is a fresh law school graduate while Atticus Finch has been a lawyer for 40 years. District Attorney Nathan Bedford Forrest Duval V better known as Bed and young Henry Clinton are more modest characters.

In each book the legal establishment is prejudiced against Negroes. Both Bed and Atticus believe Negroes need to stay in the place white society has assigned them. Each of them is a segregationist.

Yet both are part, albeit a very small part, of coming change in race relations.

Bed convenes a grand jury to investigate the death of a Negro, Joe Howard Wilson. While it is perfunctory and ineffective it is a step towards justice for Negroes in the South.

Atticus can see Negroes participating in the governance of the South though he does not believe them ready to take on the role.

Each book sets out the increasing presence of the NACCP lawyers in the South.

Regina is sent by Thurgood Marshall of the New York City office of the NACCP. She is one of numerous young lawyers being sent to the South to defend Negroes and challenge the segregation statutes.

A decade later in Go Set a Watchman Atticus and Henry take on the defence of a Negro charged with vehicular manslaughter partly to avoid having an NACCP lawyer sent to defend the young man.

How the legal system of the South approaches the murder of a Negro, The Secret of Magic, and the killing of a white man, Go Set a Watchman, is predictably different. The death of Joe Howard is ignored. The death of the white man sees the Negro accused promptly charged.

At the personal level Jean Louise is the centerpiece for a garden party of the leading white ladies of Maycomb. Regina stops all conversation and draws a racist remark when she walks through a grand party on the lawn of Calhoun Place in Revere.

Each book has a prominent white woman, Mary Pickett Calhoun and Aunt Alexandra, staunchly maintaining the traditional social structure of the community. Neither would even think of a Negro woman being involved in their activities.

Both books set out the emphasis on manners and language of the South of that era. At the same time there is the constant presence of racism where a white will often not bother to greet a Negro by name. Underlying all is the constant threat of violence against Negroes who do not live by the white imposed codes of conduct.

Neither Regina nor Jean Louise is prepared to accept those conventions. Each is a member of the generation in which Negro and white Americans will desegregate the United States.
The Secret of Magic by Deborah Johnson


  1. Oh, that's fascinating, Bill. Such interesting looks at some of the same issues and events. And in both cases, the authors bring those larger issues of social structure and social justice down to the human level. What's most interesting about this is that you read this books close together in time without any plan to do so.

  2. Margot: Thanks for the comment. I would love to listen to a conversation between Harper Lee and Deborah Johnson.

  3. Very interesting comparison Bill, which led me to move back and read the review of Secret of Magic.

    1. Moira: Thanks for the commenet. I think you would appreciate the descriptions of clothes in The Secret of Magic.