Review – Go Set A Watchman
  • Posted:
  • August 18, 2015

Go set a Watchman

Go Set A Watchman is the oft-talked about, long anticipated new novel by Harper Lee, the author of the brilliant book To Kill a Mockingbird. There are many who hold Mockingbird up as one of their favourite books of all time. I make no claim that it is mine, but it does stand as one of the more memorable books that I have ever read to date. With the recent release of this book, and the subsequent controversy surrounding it, I decided that it was a must read. I started it after its release, promptly read one chapter, and set it aside. I picked it up yesterday and finished it in about thirty hours.

While I did not loveworshipadore the book, I did not find it as tedious or as ruinous as others are making it out to be. I didn’t hate it, and that’s possibly the best thing that I can say about this book.

Jean Louise Finch, or Scout as many of us remember her, is on a return journey home from New York City. Now in her late twenties, Jean Louise views Maycomb for the first time in years with eyes widened. There have been many social upheavals since her childhood, some that have taken the town by storm. Creeping towards segregation, Maycomb Alabama remains firmly rooted in the dated idea that people should remain on their own side; that people of African descent cannot marry white, eat with them, or otherwise interact with them outside of service. Jean Louise has never understood this mentality and even now, when she discovers bigotry firmly rooted in her own home, refuses to accept that certain people are beneath others in class and in character.

This book serves as a coming-of-age novel for Jean Louise’s later years. Like Mockingbird, Jean Louise is presented with many growing moments told in little vignettes peppered with heart and humor. With Watchman we are clued in to many of the frightening and hopeful moments that make up Scout as a young woman. We share her struggles with gender identity, her getting her first period, and her tender first kiss. We watch as Jean Louise struggles without a mother even as substitute parental figures stand in for her. Atticus is there, as always, along with her Uncle Jack and Aunt Xandra. This much has not changed over time.

What has changed, of course, is something that has upset many of this book’s readers. It’s no secret that this book has its share of controversy attached to it. From the first moment of its announcement there has been a question whether Harper Lee wanted it to be published at all. Months later, the week of release, and the early readers practically ruined it for anyone who has shown any interest in it. This latter reason almost kept me from reading it – not because of content, mind you, but more because I hate getting spoilers beforehand as they never fail to deflate my enthusiasm for a book. Especially if it’s a big plot or character development spoiler, as this one was.

So, that said, let’s talk about reading this book with a massive spoiler in place.

For the record, the spoiler did exactly what I predicted it would – it made the reading of this book anticlimactic. Were I not aware of it ahead of time I might have felt the build-up of dramatic tension that much more keenly. I might have been as surprised as those early readers and registered astonishment with the unexpected twist. But none of these things happened because, well, all of my opinion of this book was forged before even opening it. And that, my friends, is a huge problem.

So, what does this change for me? It changed the ending, which went from this poignant coming-of-age drama to a flat plane of drone somewhere in the last quarter. It changed my perception of a character but did not ruin that character for me. frankly, reading this in no way change my opinion of Mockingbird as I feared it might. Mockingbird for me was always the look of racism is a small town through the eyes of a child. This book holds little difference with the exception that our narrator is two decades older and has all of her figurative bubbles burst about everyone that she knows. This book is about the loss of innocence and naiveté; the harsh realities of growing up. If anything, reading this book has enhanced how much I loved reading Mockingbird twenty years ago, and I cannot possibly hate it for achieving that.

Is there part of me that regrets reading it? Certainly not, but there is a huge part of me that regrets not taking a copy up north for two days post-release when I did not have the internet to spoil it for me.

I’m all over the map on this one, I realize that. Simply put, Go Set a Watchman is a very divisive book. I didn’t love it or hate it, but I certainly don’t regret reading it.

4 out of 5 stars.

– Follow the Reader –






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