Book Review: Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee (Paperback, 340 Pages)

Posted: August 15, 2015 in Books

Go Set a-Watchman

Jean Louise Finch, known as Scout in her younger days, is 26 years old now, and is coming back to Maycomb County from New York to spend vacation time with her fiancé Henry Clinton, and her beloved father Atticus.  But Jean Louise finds out something shocking about her father and her husband to be that makes her re-evaluate her feelings for the idyllic town she grew up in, and her upbringing.  Does she ignore what she’s found out and go ahead with her wedding, or does she leave Henry and her father in the rear-view mirror?

Let me say that I loved To Kill A Mockingbird, anyone whose read my review of that book can see how much I loved that book.  Go Set A Watchman is not To Kill A Mockingbird.  I did not like Go Set A Watchman.  The characters in Go Set a Watchman are paper thin.  The new character, Henry Clinton, is hardly an indelible character. The readers immediately know he’s Jean Louise’s fiancé, and readers find out other facts about him, but it’s not a full characterization of the person, for sure.  To Kill A Mockingbird had so much depth to it, something that is sorely lacking in this book. The iconic Atticus, the eloquent lawyer is rendered mostly mute, until the second to the last chapter, and that’s a disservice to one of the most iconic characters in literature. Characters evolve, they get older, I’m not sad or angry about Atticus, I wanted to hear more from him in this book to know more about his evolution, but he is largely silent. Other iconic characters from Mockingbird are barely mentioned or not mentioned at all.  Jean Louise is a flawed character, especially to enter into the conflict that she enters into, but that makes her more human in a way.  I will give Lee a Lot of credit for discussing race in a realistic way, rather than the idealistic way it was discussed in Mockingbird, but that credit is revoked for the way Lee ended the book, the ending doesn’t match the tone of the entire book, and so, if some part of this book was ghostwritten, I would say that the ending seemed like it was ghostwritten, because it felt added on and wholly unnecessary.

I know Harper Lee went to New York for a time, so there are definitely autobiographical elements in this book, but I don’t know how much is autobiographical and how much is fictionalized.  Every author starts with a story they know and fictionalizes parts of it, but maybe it’s too autobiographical, and maybe that’s why she never wanted it published. It is a difficult book to read for sure, and not worth it for the ending that is delivered to the readers.

Go Set A Watchman:  A waste of my time.

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