Remember this also: it’s always easy to look back and see what we were, yesterday, ten years ago. It is hard to see what we are. If you can master that trick, you’ll get along” – Go Set a Watchman by: Harper Lee
Initial Thoughts: It seems as if To Kill a Mockingbird is just one of those books that everyone has to read in school at least some point in their academic learning. Somehow, I slid through the cracks and ended up going through all 12 years of school and 3 years of university (thus far) without ever studying To Kill a Mockingbird. Last April, I finished To Kill a Mockingbird for the first time just to say that I had read it. A few months later, I found a beautiful pristine condition hardcover copy of Go Set a Watchman which I finished in July. As I had read both books less than three months apart from each other, I couldn’t help but compare them…
Twenty-six-year-old Jean Louise Finch–“Scout”–returns home from New York City to visit her aging father, Atticus. Set against the backdrop of the civil rights tensions and political turmoil that were transforming the South, Jean Louise’s homecoming turns bittersweet when she learns disturbing truths about her close-knit family, the town and the people dearest to her. Memories from her childhood flood back, and her values and assumptions are thrown into doubt.” – Goodreads
Set nearly two decades after To Kill a Mockingbird, Go Set a Watchman is the strange sequel to this ground-breaking book. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the most widely read novels since its publication. It has received countless awards including a Pulitzer prize. So, how does the much-anticipated sequel hold up to its predecessor? It is significantly insignificant.
The story begins with Jean Louise (Scout) arriving in Maycomb County after being away for a while. Jean Louise – who no longer goes by Scout – is twenty-six years old and lives in New York. The story is centered around Jean Louise’s coming-of-age as she realizes that her father isn’t the hero she believed him to be. This is not a story about trials and justice, rather, it is a realization that the world isn’t as perfect or just as Jean Louise believed it to be.
When I began reading the novel, I was completely taken aback. It was as if the book had been written by someone other than Harper Lee. The story reads as if it were some sort of poorly edited fan fiction which jumps from third person narration to first person narration. It gets extremely confusing to know which thoughts are from Jean Louise and which thoughts are from the narrator. This cacophonic blend of perspectives created for a convoluted storyline, especially near the end.
The problem with creating a sequel for a novel with such prestige as To Kill a Mockingbird is that people have extremely high expectations. Atticus Finch is one of the most greatly admired heroes in American literature. He is a symbol for human rights and to combat against racism against all odds. Go Set a Watchman destroys this perfect portrait of Atticus Finch. He has been morphed into a man who lives by the law, but his personal principles are mostly hypocritical. Although I am not American myself, I can imagine that this portrait would be a complete letdown for Americans who have called Atticus Finch a great American hero. Again, as someone who is not American, I find this portrait interesting as it shows how Jean Louise saw Atticus as someone greater than he was during her childhood.
I also found the ending to be extremely rushed and haphazardly sewn together. There is no need to fear that I will spoil the ending. There isn’t much of an ending to spoil. There really isn’t much resolution, although Jean Louise does come to the edge of some sort of understanding of her childhood. The book just cuts off as if the author couldn’t have been bothered to write any more. It was as if she abandoned her endeavour a few pages before a definitive conclusion that would have satisfied me.
All in all, there really wasn’t a major “wow!” factor for me to say that I enjoyed reading this book. I found getting through its 278 pages to be a chore for the most part. I did enjoy the flashback scenes to Jean Louise’s childhood, but it seemed as if they did not amount to much in the end. The book had a lot of potential if it were edited properly, but it just wasn’t working for me.
I would not recommend this book to major fans of To Kill a Mockingbird. They will be extremely disappointed. Rather, I would recommend this book to those who are curious as to what happens to Jean Louise after the events of To Kill a Mockingbird.
About the Book Title: Go Set a Watchman Author: Harper Lee Series: To Kill a Mockingbird (Book #1: To Kill a Mockingbird, Book #2: Go Set a Watchman) Pages: 278 Year Published:2015 Genres & Subjects: Fiction, Contemporary, Coming-of-age, American fiction
Until Next Time,