Saturday, 29 August 2015

AUGUST READ: GO SET A WATCHMEN|| Harper Lee




Go Set A Watchmen, by famed author Harper Lee, was one of those books that created a lot of press before it had even been published. Sometimes for the wrong reasons. Discovered decades after Harper Lee's hugely successful 'To Kill A Mocking Bird' was published, Go Set A Watchmen certainly caused a lot stir in the run up to its publication. Some were eagerly anticipating a sequel to one of their all time favourite books, some were arguing that it shouldn't be published, and then there were the rumours, the rumours about our beloved Atticus.

I too was slightly apprehensive, and not just because of the Atticus rumours that were flying around. I couldn't help but think that if the draft that Harper Lee had written had been a literary wonder, a compelling story, then it would have been published all those years ago, before 'To Kill A Mockingbird' was written. I felt as if it was just some big shot publishing company trying to score a large profit, and neglecting the fact that this book may not actually be as good as 'To Kill A Mockingbird'. As if they were more concerned with riding on Harper Lee's previous success then her writing ability, and the love for the characters she created.

At first I thought that I could just ignore all the large posters and signs telling me to pre-order. I didn't what to read about a character I loved being so different to what I thought, I didn't want to succumb the  big marketing push that the publishers had given the prequel. Yet I could not stop myself, after reading countless reviews, and seeming to see the book everywhere I turned, I knew that in order to make a fully informed opinion I would have to read the book myself.

The book starts with a grown up Jean Louise Finch, formerly known as Scout, returning to Maycomb on one of her annual visits from New York, where she now lives. We, the reader, instantly reconnect with Scout, seeing the little ruffian that we first envisaged when reading 'To Kill A Mockingbird', and comparing her to the Jean Louise that we read of now. In the first hundred pages of so we learn of what has happened not only to Jean Louise since the ending of 'To Kill A Mockingbird' but also of what has happened to Jem, Atticus, and the town of Maycomb itself.

In these first few chapters we clearly see that time has amassed since the days of Atticus's court case and Boo Radley. We see a mature Scout torn between Maycomb and New York, between the young women she has become and the town and everyone in it that she loves. Although not as well written as Harper Lee's other novel, it is still easy to immerse yourself into Maycomb life, to fall in love with Scout again, to really feel the South's stifling summer heat, and hear the porch swings creaking on a lazy evening.

From around the hundredth page we begin to learn more about the Atticus that all the rumours have been talking about. The rest of the book deals with this issue, the issue of Scout not only coming to terms with her changed opinion of her father, but also of her uncle, Dr. Finch, and her 'boyfriend' Hank. We see a Scout truly at odds with Maycomb, with a father she worshipped and with everything she thought about herself.

Upon finishing the book, I was left with an unsatisfying feeling. It wasn't necessarily he fact that the Atticus rumours had turned out to be somewhat true, for that was how Harper Lee had intended Atticus to be, that is how she first wrote about him. It was more that I felt that certain things were left untouched, certain things were left unexplained. Perhaps if 'Go Set A Watchmen' had been published first then this feeling would not be there, I honestly don't know.

Even with this unexplained and unsatisfactory feeling that I am left with, I am actually glad that I decided to read the book. It gave me not only more of an insight into the lives of some of my favourite characters, but also into Harper Lee's writing style, and how she progressed between the books. I would recommend anyone who is yet to read 'Go Set A Watchmen' or 'To Kill A Mockingbird' to read them, to immerse themselves into the life of Scout and of a Southerner in the early to mid twentieth century.

I would also love to know if anyone read 'Go Set A Watchmen' before they read 'To Kill A Mockingbird' and how you felt about the ending, and whether you too were left with a similar unsatisfactory feeling as I was.
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2 comments

  1. I keep reading loads of mixed reviews on this book, and can't decide whether or not to pick it up! To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my all-time favourites so I'd hate to read this next one if it slightly deconstructs it, but at the same time I loved Scout's narrative so would love to know what happens to all the characters in their future. I think I will have to read it but set myself up for some disappointment within it. Great review :) x
    Charlotte's Road

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  2. I read To Kill A Mocking Bird at school and loved it, but I haven't felt the urge to read Go Set A Watchman... I don't want it to taint my view of Lee's first novel! I can imagine feeling unsatisfied like you did... thanks for this review! :) x

    Polly Cat Contemplates

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