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Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee (2015)

watchmanAlthough I believed To Kill A Mockingbird to be an outstanding book, I didn’t have any burning desire to read Go Set A Watchman when I heard it was to be published. I’ll admit it was the controversy surrounding the release of the book that piqued my curiousity enough to get my hands on the audio book. I wanted to see for myself how this supposed first draft held up to Harper Lee’s masterpiece.

* CONTAINS SPOILERS

THE BOOK
Twenty-six year-old Jean-Louise Finch returns to her home town of Maycomb, Alabama to visit her elderly father, Atticus, her aunt and Henry Clinton, her friend and long-time beau. During her visit, Jean-Louise is startled to discover the immense racial tension and division in the town as the result of changing social attitudes following a landmark Supreme Court decision. But her perception of home and the people Jean-Louise loves is completely shattered upon finding out her father and Henry are members of a citizen’s council that supports segregation. When Jean-Louise confronts Atticus, she is shocked when he doesn’t deny rejecting civil rights for negroes.

THE GOOD
I was reading Gone With the Wind at the time, so I already had the south in my head when I listened to the audio book for GSAW. I really enjoyed how Jean-Louise described life in Maycomb, all the idiosyncrasies and charm of the people she knew, and the funny memories that surfaced of being “Scout Finch” as she walked the streets of her childhood. Reese Witherspoon was the perfect performer to make the characters come to life, and convey all of the drama and humour in the story.

THE BAD
The events leading up to the book’s ending are emotionally tumultuous for Jean-Louise, but everything is wrapped up so quickly and neatly. It left me feeling jilted and unsatisfied.

CONCLUSION
As an independent book, I thought GSAW was a fairly decent story about a young woman who comes to realize that some of the ideals she depended on are not what she thought them to be; in particular, the shining light she reserved for her father, Atticus. Racial issues propel the storyline, but at the heart of it, GSAW depicts Jean-Louise’s struggle with her own naiveté.

However, the differences between GSAW and TKAM are glaring, so I now understand the outrage concerning the new book. Currently, GSAW has sold millions of copies and remains the number one book in North America. This may be good for the publishers, but I question how Harper Lee’s legacy and the integrity of TKAM can survive the publication of this book.

4/5 Stars

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11 comments on “Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee (2015)

  1. citygirlscapes
    August 19, 2015

    I haven’t brought myself to read this yet, but I am so interested in people’s opinions on it. I think you summed it up quite nicely in the end, that as a stand alone book it does what it sets out to do, but its pure existence has a huge impact on Harper Lee’s legacy. That makes such perfect sense and is exactly why this whole thing makes me uneasy. Thanks for taking the time to read it so I don’t have to. 🙂 – ashley

    Like

    • ebookclassics
      August 20, 2015

      Ha ha, you’re welcome! I like how you said the book “does what it sets out to do”. I’m fascinated by the whole controversy, but at the same a little sad.

      Liked by 1 person

      • citygirlscapes
        August 20, 2015

        Agreed, totally. I see why there’s so many people talking about all this.

        Like

  2. Charlene @ Bookish Whimsy
    August 19, 2015

    I just skipped to the conclusion of your review, since I didn’t want too many spoilers (although I think I know more about Atticus in this book than I ever wanted to know.) It’s good that this is a great book on it’s own, but I feel like I can’t separate it from TKAM, and it would impact my views on the original negatively. But I might read this someday (when I’m ready! :D) and I’m glad to know that this is a well done book for the most part.

    Like

    • ebookclassics
      August 20, 2015

      Waiting for when you’re ready to read the book is a good idea. I think if TKAM has special meaning for you, it will be difficult not to have strong feelings about the changes.

      Like

  3. Freda Labianca
    August 19, 2015

    At least you read it objectively. I also did, and enjoyed it for what it was, rather profound, yet it was still not as deep as TKAM. Fantastic review!

    Like

    • ebookclassics
      August 20, 2015

      Thank you! I agree it wasn’t a very deep story and it’s amazing to think of how much historical significance the book is still going to have.

      Like

  4. Brian Joseph
    August 20, 2015

    Very thoughtful review.

    I also fear that Harper Lee’s legacy may now be marred. I am also concerned that we may have damaged an important symbol of justice and reason with this version of Atticus.

    Like

  5. ebookclassics
    August 20, 2015

    Unfortunately, I agree this is true and it makes me sad. I think we are just beginning to see the impact of GSAW on Harper Lee’s legacy and now there’s no going back.

    Like

  6. Melinda
    September 23, 2015

    I only recently read TKAMB and I liked it, but I haven’t really felt like reading Go Set a Watchman. Maybe next year

    Like

    • ebookclassics
      September 23, 2015

      I almost didn’t read GSAW, but I was really intrigued by all of the media controversy. I don’t believe TKAMB and GSAW need to be read together.

      Like

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This entry was posted on August 19, 2015 by in Reviews and tagged , .

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