Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee
Rating: 3 out of 5
Maycomb, Alabama. 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. Featuring many of the iconic characters from To Kill a Mockingbird, Go Set a Watchman perfectly captures a young woman, and a world, in a painful yet necessary transition out of the illusions of the past–a journey that can be guided only by one’s conscience.
This is the much anticipated sequel by Harper Lee, to my favourite book: To Kill A Mockingbird. What a book to follow – a classic, a much loved book, a book studied in schools and so on…so does Go Set A Watchman match up?
This novel follows Jean Louise – Scout – who returns home for a short visit from New York. The North is very different to the South – and attitudes of the South, even those of her family, come as a big shock to Jean Louise. This book explores racial tension, the North/South divide and family relationships.
I hate to type this, but…I didn’t enjoy this book nearly as much as I hoped I would. For me, this novel does not match up to To Kill A Mockingbird. I found it really lacked a story, plus key characters. There was no Boo Radley – he wasn’t even mentioned. Jem has died, so only appears in Jean Louise’s memories and Calpurnia is also just a memory. I found it hard to adjust to Scout being Jean Louise, a woman not the tom boy we all loved. I found her Aunt really irritating too! Atticus doesn’t actually feature much in this story – although a lot of Jean Louise’s self-discovery revolves around him, he is fairly absent in the story. I was surprised that the wisdom Jean Louise eventually sought was from her Uncle Jack, not Atticus.
As for the story, or lack of, I found this read more like an essay in racial tensions than a story. The book was wordy and I found a lot of it just wasn’t interesting. I also didn’t follow all of what Lee was saying. As I reflect on this novel, I find myself wondering what the point of the book was. Nothing was really concluded in the end. I found the trips down memeory lane enjoyable, but quite random and they didn’t add much to storyline.
I am rating this book 3 out of 5, firstly because I did finish this book. Secondly, there were parts of it I enjoyed. As I have said, I liked the memories, which meant Jem could re-enter the story. I also like the banter between Jean Louise and Hank. But it wasn’t an easy read, and some of it was really dull. This book isn’t as good as To Kill A Mockingbird, which is a novel I just love. I have come away from this book disappointed.