Review: Go Set a Watchman

September 22, 2015 1950's, book review, books, Harper Collins 3

Go Set a Watchman

  • Written by:  Harper Lee
  • Published by:  Harper Collins, July 14, 2015
  • Length:  278 pages
  • Source:  Purchased

Summary:  Maycomb, Alabama. Twenty-six-year-old Jean Louise Finch–“Scout”–returns home from New York City to visit her aging father, Atticus. Set against the backdrop of the civil rights tensions and political turmoil that were transforming the South, Jean Louise’s homecoming turns bittersweet when she learns disturbing truths about her close-knit family, the town and the people dearest to her. Memories from her childhood flood back, and her values and assumptions are thrown into doubt. Featuring many of the iconic characters from To Kill a MockingbirdGo Set a Watchman perfectly captures a young woman, and a world, in a painful yet necessary transition out of the illusions of the past–a journey that can be guided only by one’s conscience.

Written in the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman imparts a fuller, richer understanding and appreciation of Harper Lee. Here is an unforgettable novel of wisdom, humanity, passion, humor and effortless precision–a profoundly affecting work of art that is both wonderfully evocative of another era and relevant to our own times. It not only confirms the enduring brilliance of To Kill a Mockingbird, but also serves as its essential companion, adding depth, context and new meaning to an American classic.

My Thoughts:  I read this book the week it was published.  I was eager to see what Harper Lee, beloved author of my favorite book since I was about 12 years old, had written.  Yes, I had doubts and questions, but only my reading the book could answer them for me.

When I began reading I could see her turn of phrase and use of language was there on the pages. Her detail and descriptions of an older, mature Macomb was visible, and a grown up Jean Louise, much loved Scout was there too.  I also saw the immature work of an author.  There were passages that rambled on and on, and would have benefitted greatly with editing.  There were details that saddened me, and not enough of some tidbits that would have been nice to read about again.  I had to remind myself that the two books had little to do with one another.  This first book put aside to write Mockingbird, as it was thought that the youth of Scout Finch was better reading.

The big news that Atticus Finch was a racist and member of various groups was shocking to the reading public.  I actually  found these parts of the book less disturbing.  In his time, the character of Atticus was likely to be the man Lee writes about.  A man who still saw the law, and therefore defending Tom Robinson as being the right and just thing to do, but also a man who didn’t like seeing change in his life, in the lives and roles of others.  Black people had always been separate in his world, and he expected it to stay that way.  As we know, things change, life evolves as do our moral and civil expectations.  We live in a country where we still struggle with racial equality, and continue to work through equality for all no matter your race or sexual orientation.  Perhaps we all know people who still cling to antiquated beliefs.  Jean Louise was shocked that her father wasn’t as open and free thinking as she once believed.  Love and respect through the eyes of a child is much different than we we mature and see our parents and role models through adult eyes.

I’m happy I read this book.  It makes me sad still that we’ll never know what Harper Lee’s real wishes were regarding the publishing of this book.  I’m glad I got to read it, I believe I’d be happy to read any old note or thing that Ms. Lee wrote.  I think it’s worth reading, if only to see for yourself what all the hype is about.

3 Responses to “Review: Go Set a Watchman”

  1. Sarah's Book Shelves

    I just wish this hadn’t been published as a novel….I wish there’d been an introduction explaining what this book actually was and that it was more of a historical artifact than a real book. We, in the book world, are aware of all the details surrounding its publication, but I suspect many in the general public weren’t.

  2. Michelle

    I am definitely not interested in reading this one, but I can appreciate the reasons why people are reading it. I am glad you were able to get something good out of it.

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