Nov 5, 2015

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

As a lover of Southern Fiction and TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, I was actually nervous to read this book. I had read the reviews and the criticism beforehand which only added to my nervousness. I wanted it to be great. I wanted it to be just as wonderful as TKAM. But realistically, I knew that wasn't possible. Even before reading it I felt it was unfair to compare it to the giant literary work we have loved and coveted for over fifty years.  I still feel that way now after reading it.

When I began reading, it felt odd that Jean-Louise was now a grown woman, living in NYC and it took me a while to get used to that fact. I know, it's silly, but that'a how I felt. Once I shed the dream of having Scout back in the same form, the story grew on me. Yes, by that I mean I wasn't in love with the story right away. It took some time to warm up to it. So much had changed but, like real life, it's a normal progression.  Along with Jem's absence in the book, one of the first aspects that surprised me was the change in Calpurnia's relationship with the family. A true sign of the times, I realize it is a reflection of how life was changing in the south with regard to African Americans. But much like Jean-Louise, it caught me off guard and I felt a sort of loss. The South was evolving and so were it's people.  Because Jean-Louise had moved North for school, she didn't see the slow progression of this change and upon returning home that new reality slapped her in the face. Scout never saw Cal as black, she was just Cal and she loved her. She never saw the division and she didn't want to see it now.

The book is a sharp contrast to TKAM in that it shows not only how much the South waschanging, but also Jean-Louise's realization that Atticus may not be the man she thought he was.  As she struggle to accept these changes, she questions what she always thought to be true.  All she wants is for things to go back to the way she remembered.  Seeing a parent through grown up eyes is sometimes difficult, especially when the image you have of that person is almost god-like, as in Scout's case with Atticus. I remember well the first time, as an adult, I saw a flawed version of my own father and how hard it was for me to come to terms with him not being perfect. That is what Jean-Louise is dealing with here.

Unlike many readers, I didn't feel like this book showed Atticus as being a racist. In fact, I didn't find him much different than in TKAM. Jean-Louise made assumptions about her father and in true Scout form, reacted before looking at the whole picture. I feel like a lot of the readers who also saw him as racist did the same thing. He was still a man fighting for his community with all its changes, but doing it in a different way. Some see it and some don't. The book became more emotional to me as it went on and by the final pages, I had a lump in my throat that almost choked me. It was in those pages that I came to my final opinion about the book. It moved me and I'm so glad I read it. I had no idea what to expect going in but what I got was an appreciation for Harper Lee's view and her talent.

One final note, the title was a mystery to me at first but now that I've read the book and I understand where that phrase comes from and what it means, I totally get it and think it is the perfect title.

The Bottom Line:

I strongly suggest reading this book but only if you've already read TKAM. Don't try to compare the two books, just go into it with an open mind. I flew through it and will more than likely read it more than once. It's not often we get the chance to have a highly regarded writer of a piece of classic literature offer something such as this and I commend Harper Lee for her courage in doing so.

GO SET A WATCHMAN (Kindle Version)
Author: Harper Lee
Publisher: Harper
Published: July 2015
Length: 288 pp
Source: Purchased

1 comment:

  1. I have this one but I lost interest in reading it because of all the negative comments. From what you've said here, I think I will give it a shot. Maybe not right away but I am kind of curious about that title too.


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