#bookreview – Go Set a Watchman – by Harper Lee

Highly Recommended! Awarded four stars on Goodreads.

gosetwatchmanThere’s been so much hype about this book. Poor Harper Lee. How could she ever compete with her Pulitzer Prize winning first effort, TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD?! And now people are asking was that first book really a reflection of her talent OR the skill of an exceptional editor? Geez!

Up front, I need to say that GO SET A WATCHMAN does not, in my opinion, match the perfection of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. It is less polished and has a less powerful narrative. But then, how could anything compete against the drama inherent in a child’s view of a racially charged rape trial in the deep South.

As critics have warned, it is indeed a series of episodes from Jean Louise’s visit to Macomb, after a number of years living in New York City. There were times, particularly during the first half, when I wasn’t quite sure where Lee was going with the story. And a few moments when I was a bit confused by the voice — sometimes she refers to Jean Louise in first person and sometimes in third. But WATCHMAN (which was actually written in the mid 1950s BEFORE the manuscript we know as To Kill a Mockingbird) is clearly Harper Lee’s own work and I now appreciate her talent even more.

As the book progressed, I loved watching Jean Louise struggle to make peace with her town, childhood, family and friends. Just like all adults have to do with their roots. I loved her humor, the quirky way she sees the world, and speaks forthrightly (not always what a Southern lady was supposed to do), always remaining true to herself. This is Scout all grown up! And she’s VERY funny.

Best of all is looking at the wonderful and close relationship she still has with her father, Atticus. And though he is the main focus of Jean Louise’s need to break away and stand as a completely independent adult, that does not take away from the deep love, respect, and appreciation this father and daughter have for each other.

harperlee
Author Harper Lee (2007) She died in 2016.

Yes, we learn some surprising (and disappointing) things about Atticus, but I didn’t come away disliking him or thinking him a hypocrite. Instead, I feel I now have a more nuanced portrait of him, that feels more true to his Southern heritage. Like Scout, I’ve learned he’s not the god-like figure from MOCKINGBIRD. But I still wish he had been MY father– flaws and all.

More about Harper Lee.

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