Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee

Scout returns home to learn some final lessons from her father in the sequel To Kill A Mockingbird.

3/5 stars.
Hardcover, 278 pages.
Read from August 15 to 18, 2015.

Scout returns home to learn some final lessons from her father in the sequel To Kill A Mockingbird. This book has been one of the most anticipated and talked about books of 2015, luckily for me, I was on the hold list at my local library for this on early! Harper Lee originally wrote this story first in 1957 and when she brought it to the publisher, they were more intrigued with the flashback scenes of Jean Louise’s childhood and encouraged her to write on that, and thus To Kill A Mockingbird was born. There has been a substantial amount of controversy surrounding the publication of this book as to whether or not Harper Lee really wanted it published. Regardless, the publishers made their money as this book  was one of the most pre-ordered books since Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows. While this book has left many readers and fans frustrated with the outcome of certain characters, or even the lack there of with certain loved characters, many have decided to avoid the story all together to preserve their ideals and love of To Kill A Mockingbird (TKAMB) However, I’m here to tell you that this book is still worth the read.

Scout, or Jean Louise is now a young and vivacious woman and after living in New York for the last 2 years she returns home to visit her family. Jean Louise still has her fierce personality and while she looks like a proper young lady, she is still as brazen as ever. Jean Louise is nostalgic and has mixed feelings about returning to her home of Maycomb, Alabama. She wants to see her beloved and aging father, Atticus, but she is ambivalent about her love interest Hank, who was her brother Jem’s best friend. More importantly, she isn’t sure what to make of the town that she grew up in as she has come to see has small the town really is.  The more time she spends with her close-knit family and friends she comes to realize that the civil rights movement is causing tension in the town. What’s more troubling is that Atticus and Hank seem to have some involvement in it, yet she doesn’t know exactly how. As she investigates, Jean Louise will come see her father as a real person with flaws, rather than a man she idolizes.

This book didn’t change my opinion of TKAMB, but rather I feet that the two books compliment each other quite nicely. As a reader, like Jean Louise, you come to idolize Atticus in TKAMB for his strong moral compass and bravery, without seeing a single one of his flaws. Every child goes through a moment in their life when they start to see their parents as people, rather than just authoritative figures. This is what Go Set a Watchman is all about as you get to grow with Jean Louise for a second time. I can see however why this book would have aggravated major TKAMB fans. For one (I’m going to spoil this a bit, but not completely) Jem is not in the book and neither is Dill. Instead you have Hank, a character that was never discussed in TKAMB. Admittedly I did find their absence disappointing but it was short-lived. I think the biggest shockers come from Atticus and Calpurina as their behaviors at times contradict the characters that you came to love. Calpurina’s was the most heartbreaking for me as you don’t get the same amount of detail about her views and opinions. With Atticus though, while his beliefs are the most controversial in the book, I believe that he committed to the law and the belief of the greater good and that his actions are based off that.  That doesn’t mean I agree with him, but I  believe him to be a bigot.

That aside, the reason I’m not raving about this book is because sadly, this novel was not as concisely written. The flow of the novel didn’t feel natural and while the last portion of the book was exciting, it read less like a novel and more like a piece on philosophy on morality. While that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it just didn’t fit well with the rest of the story. I can see why the publisher suggested that Harper Lee write TKAMB, as the flash backs in this novel were by far the highlights of the novel.

The motions and struggles that Jean Louise goes through makes this perfect for those in their twenties who have left home and are starting to make a new identity for themselves. If you are truly a TKAMB fan and have no desire to see the any of your beloved characters altered in any way then maybe this book isn’t for you, however, I believe that there are benefits to reading this book and that the character growth and the lessons that come with them are more important than holding onto any ideals.

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Since Go Set A Watchman, the prequel to this book, was just published and I am currently waiting on my copy from the library, I thought I would re-read To Kill A Mockingbird. The last time I read this book I must have been about 15 years old, and while I remember enjoying the book I couldn’t have told you what it was about so a re-read was definitely in order. Reading through the book this time around was like reading the book for the very first time and it was extremely enjoyable.

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4/5 stars.
Hardcover, 336 pages
Read from June 08 to 16, 2015.

Since Go Set A Watchman, the prequel to this book, was just published and I am currently waiting on my copy from the library, I thought I would re-read To Kill A Mockingbird.  The last time I read this book I must have been about 15 years old, and while I remember enjoying the book I couldn’t have told you what it was about so a re-read was definitely in order. Reading through the book this time around was like reading the book for the very first time and it was extremely enjoyable.

“Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit them, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”

To Kill a Mockingbird is a classic novel that is set in the Jim Crow era and the Great Depression. The book has been in publication since 1960 and is one of the most successful books still in print today. The book won a Pulitzer Prize 1961. The new book, Go Set A Watchman was, actually written first in 1957 but the publishers were more interested in the flashback scenes in the book and encouraged Harper Lee to write a story based on that, which is how To Kill a Mockingbird came to be. There is a lot of controversy surrounding the publication of Go Set A Watchman, especially about whether or not Harper Lee really wanted the book published or completely understood that it was going to be published.

Fun Fact: Harper Lee was close friends with Truman Capote.

Jean Louise, or Scout, as she is most often referred to is six years old and lives with her older brother Jem and their widowed father Atticus in Maycomb Alabama. The book takes place over a period of three years. Jem and Scout become friends with a boy named Dill, who visits Maycomb every summer. The three of them are fixated on a home where the elusive Arthur “Boo” Radley is rumored to never leave his home. No one knows why, but Boo has kept himself cooped up in his home for years and no one has seen or heard from him in long time. There are variety of nasty rumors that are spread around town as a result. Atticus is one of the county’s lawyers and he has been given one of the most controversial cases yet. He is defending a black man named Tom Robinison, who has been accused of raping a young white woman named Mayella Ewell. The Ewell’s are a disreputable family to begin with and many have already concluded that the claim itself is false but no one is willing to defend a black man, regardless of his innocence, and no one has ever won when defending a black person. Many people in town are skeptical, angry or offended with Atticus and his affinity for Tom and his willingness to defend him. The back lash comes to affect both Jem and Scout in different ways as the two of them grow.

The book is narrated from Scout’s perspective giving the reader the interesting insights of a curious but resilient young girl. I adore Scout. She is honest, keeps up with the boys and is reluctant to act like a lady. Scout’s perspective adds additional depth for the reader as Scout is experiencing a variety of adult scenarios and you get to perceive them as she does, through the eyes of a child..The book has a unique readability because of Scout’s perspective as well, especially in her regards to Boo Radley. The book is playful but smart as it engrosses some very serious issues of its day as well as some basic life lessons on how to treat people. The playfulness of Scout is balanced by Atticus’ wisdom.

Overall a very worth while and pleasant read. I’d recommend this book to anyone, young or old, as it’s a very accessible story thanks to Scout’s perspective. If Go Set A Watchman is anything like this book then I will be happy to read it despite its controversy.