Go Set a Watchman

By: Harper Lee
(closely related to To Kill a Mockingbird)
2015
Fiction
Rating: 2.5/5

Go Set a Watchman book cover

Ay caramba.

I am very, very far from sure that I understood Go Set a Watchman.

My father gave me this book as a gift, and he prefaced it by saying that this book has received a.lot. of attention in the media.

If you aren’t aware of who Harper Lee is, shame on you. But seriously, Lee wrote To Kill a Mockingbird. And if you haven’t read that one yet, change that. And don’t read this post yet.

Go Set a Watchman takes place twenty years after To Kill a Mockingbird. Instead of a much-beloved Scout, we are given a feisty young woman who goes by her given name, Jean Louise. The plot is much simpler, much shorter, much more invested in emotional relations and inner thoughts than external actions.

And I cannot definitively say more than that. I did not understand the ending. I have some vague grip on the emotional battle that takes place, and I think I understand what Lee is driving at. But it seems almost as if the characters never quite finish saying what they’re trying to say.

A lot of people have criticized this book. It paints some truly beloved characters in America’s literary culture in a not quite so nice light. Race is still a huge issue in this novel, but it’s not really the primary factor. It’s kind of a side story that just helps fill out the environment.

Oh yeah, and it’s apparently the first draft of To Kill a Mockingbird. This is the book Lee originally wanted to write. It’s a lot more realistic for its time and place, but still very confusing. One reviewer describes it as “an interesting document and a pretty bad novel” and I have to say I agree. That review sheds some serious light on the novel that I quite appreciate.

It’s not horrible. It’s confusing and difficult at times, but if you’re a fan at all of To Kill a Mockingbird, you should definitely pick this up.

If not, don’t bother.

 

*****

 

If you’re a fan of Lee, here are some suggestions:

(for more by Lee)

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

(for better novels about historical movements)

Clara and Mr. Tiffany by Susan Vreeland

The Known World by Edward P. Jones

The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

(for books about parent child relationships)

God Help the Child by Toni Morrison

Hamlet by William Shakespeare

Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver

And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

 

Coming up:

Andersen’s Fairy Tales by Hans Christian Andersen

Free to Choose by Milton and Rose Friedman

I Can’t Tell You by Hillary Frank

The Vow by Kim and Krickitt Carpenter

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