Books

A Book Review: Go Set a Watchman (May Contain a Spoiler!)

The following is a book review by The Ameri Brit Mom. This post expresses the genuine opinion and experiences of The Ameri Brit Mom and is in no way endorsed by authors, publishers, and outside influences.

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Title: Go Set a Watchman

Author: Harper Lee

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Copyright Date: 2015

Last fall when the information about the release of Go Set a Watchman came out in the media I marked the release date in my calendar and counted down the days before I could purchase this novel and read it for myself. My first two years of teaching I had the privilege of teaching To Kill a Mockingbird, the only other novel written by Harper Lee. It is still one of my favorite novels. I fell in love with Atticus Finch who defended an African American in the deep south during a time of such racial turmoil. This action pointed to the morality of this man. A man who stood up against the beliefs of his society and time to do what he perceived to be right. A man who worked as a lawyer while bringing up two children on his own. There was so much to admire about Atticus. He was such a pivotal character in literature thanks to To Kill a Mockingbird.

It is with this mentality that I looked forward to reuniting with the characters of Maycomb County, Alabama, in the newly released novel, Go Set a Watchman. This newly discovered novel by Harper Lee contains the same setting and familiar characters that helped paint the south of the Reconstruction period so clearly for readers of her first novel. The difference is that some characters are painted in a slightly different light in this novel.

Jean Louise Finch, aka Scout, is now twenty-six and resides in New York City. Every summer she returns to Maycomb County for two weeks and every year is surprised by the change taking place in her hometown. She wishes that her corner of the world would stay the same year after year, but time is changing the town she knows and the people she adores.

Alabama is being thrown into turmoil by the likes of racism. In her childhood Scout is faced with racism, but her father becomes her hero as he defends a black man and stands up for his conscience. Now that she’s older she’s beginning to see clearly the motives and morals of the people around her. Her revolutionary ideas are the norm in New York City where she is surrounded by diversity that is welcomed with open arms, but in Maycomb County Scout’s failure to see the difference between black and white seems to always get her into trouble.

The summer when Atticus is seventy-two Scout is faced with many decisions. Does she stay home this time to take care of her rheumatic father? Should she marry Hank, the boy who has courted her since school days and who looks forward to her two week visits every year? And most importantly, What is right?

This story is one of listening to your own conscience and finding truth for yourself.

I will say that I was a bit disappointed in some of the content, however, I refuse to let this novel change the way I feel about some of the characters from To Kill a Mockingbird. If you’re not careful, it can cause you to begin to despise characters you loved originally. I don’t want to spoil too much because the nature of my posts on books is not to retell a book for you. I simply like to highlight pieces and parts to help you select books that will appeal to your style.

If you are interested in some of the specifics of this book here is an article from The Atlantic about the major conflicts with this novel.

I will say that I did enjoy re-encountering some of the characters I have not heard from in years. I used to spend a couple of class periods discussing the characters of Calpurnia, Atticus, Jem, Scout, and others of Maycomb County. It was like a class reunion during the first couple of chapters as I was reunited with the characters I once studied and loved. The writing style was also similar to that of To Kill a Mockingbird. For the most  part the story was a quick and easy read as I was familiar with the way that Lee highlights the setting and spends a lot of energy creating rounded characters.

In my opinion, even if you have heard bad publicity, it is worth reading Go Set a Watchman. If you haven’t first read To Kill a Mockingbird I would suggest doing so beforehand because there is so much you understand better from having the background of that first novel. When it comes to reading this novel my advice to you goes right along with the theme of this book:

You should define what is good and right for yourself.