“Go Set a Watchman has been the most anticipated novel of the year, if not the century.”

 

NO MAJOR SPOILERS

 

There has been much debate about whether this book is a prequel, a sequel or a first draft. I don’t think it’s any of those things; more a companion piece to To Kill A Mockingbird. The characters are familiar, there are some passages in TKAM that come straight from Go Set A Watchman, but it tells a different story.

In GSAW, Jean Louise (Scout) is now 26 years old and living in New York, she goes back home to Maycomb County for her 2 weeks annual holiday. During her stay she makes a horrible discovery that makes her physically sick: her beloved father, Atticus, is not who she thought he was. After finding a blatently racist pamphlet amongst Atticus’s things, she follows him to a citizens’ council meeting which has been called to oppose desegregation, and she doesn’t like what she sees or hears.

The book is split into two definite halves. The first half is light, with plenty of humour and reminiscences. Jean Louise spends time with Henry ‘Hank’ Clinton, a long-term friend of hers and protege of Atticus.

Her uncle Dr Jack Finch plays a much bigger part in this book; an old eccentric and close to his niece, he is a perfect foil for Jean Louise’s rage.

The second half, after the discovery, is deep, dark and complex. Jean Louise goes in search of answers to how her father could have changed so much.

“The one human being she had ever fully and wholeheartedly trusted had failed her; the only man she had ever known to whom she could point and say with expert knowledge, “He is a gentleman, in his heart he is a gentleman,” had betrayed her, publicly, grossly, and shamelessly.”

Feelings of betrayal extend to other family and friends,she feels she doesn’t understand any of them and doesn’t belong in Maycomb County anymore. The problem is, she doesn’t belong in New York either.

While this book certainly has its problems; it’s raw, there are lengthy debates on constitutional matters, the rich descriptions of TKAM are missing; it should not be dismissed as worthless. Its subject matter, although difficult, is important. And Atticus Finch is, given his background, much more likely to have been the man in this book than the idealised man in TKAM.

“you confused your father with God. You never saw him as a man with a man’s heart and a man’s failings” – Jean Louise wasn’t the only one.

I am pleased this book was published, as a purely historical document it is worth reading. But also, it shakes the reader up, takes us out of our comfort zone;
“prejudice..and faith..have something in common: they both begin where reason ends..”
… and sometimes we need that.
****

 

Reviewed by:

Sandra Foy

Added 27th August 2015

More Reviews By
Sandra Foy

NO MAJOR SPOILERS

 

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee (author of To Kill a Mockingbird) was actually written before the brilliant novel To Kill a Mockingbird (TKAMB) but was left unpublished until now.

Beginning reading this book I tried to keep an open mind (despite everything that has been written about it so far).

Go Set a Watchman is set in the future from To Kill a Mockingbird, with a 26 year old, Jean Louise Finch returning home to her family. This novel allows you to get to know more about old characters, including Jean Louise’s Aunt Alexandra. At the same time we are introduced to new characters including Henry.

The book sees Jean Louise’s transition from childhood to adulthood. This is reflected in the loss of her childhood nickname ‘Scout’, which is only used minimally by old characters we’d been previously acquainted with in To Kill a Mockingbird.

Despite her leap into adulthood, Jean Louise is still the same girl we knew in TKAMB, defiant (particularly towards her Aunt) and of course funny.

Much like To Kill a Mockingbird, Go Set a Watchman tackles the issue of race, however it is looked at in a very different way, the complete opposite to the light and childish way race is examined in TKAMB.

As well as looking at the future for Jean Louise and her family, the book contains a lot of flashbacks to her childhood memories, some of which are truly funny and endearing moments that really show her personality.

Although this novel could never be as good as the iconic and much loved To Kill a Mockingbird, for anyone who wanted to know what became of Jean Louise Finch, Go Set a Watchman can now fill that gap.

 

Reviewed by:

Catherine Muxworthy, Booksbirdblog

Added 18th July 2015

More Reviews By
Sandra Foy

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