Harper Lee's TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is one of the most
cherished novels of our time. The release of a prior
draft, dubbed by some as a sequel, ignited the literary
world and has sparked numerous controversies, making GO
SET A WATCHMAN one of those novels you must read for
yourself—and one that is very hard to review, depending
on which particular perspective the reader takes on the
Almost twenty years have passed since the events in TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. Jean
Louise "Scout" Finch
returning home from New York to Maycomb. Her father,
Atticus, has aged, but in Jean Louise's eyes he is still
the heroic figure she loved and idolized as a child.
Unfortunately, Maycomb has changed and Jean Louise is
about to see all of her childhood views and memories in a
whole different light. GO SET A WATCHMAN weaves back and
forth between past and present as Harper Lee incorporates
Jean Louise's memories into the storyline.
Harper Lee's character development is superb, even if the
characters are not as we envision them from TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. Jean Louise's
follow the conventions of the day shine through the
pages, as we see a young woman living on the cusp of huge
societal changes. The town of Maycomb is practically a
character itself, as Harper Lee makes the town and the
weight of its collective beliefs come to life.
While Jean Louise was the narrator for TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD, Atticus was the true
hero of that tale
that is part of what makes GO SET A WATCHMAN such a
difficult tale to read for many. Atticus is no longer
the perfect hero, the man willing to sit outside a jail
all night to ensure justice is handled legally and
appropriately. Instead, Atticus has caved into the
Southern fears of his time and Jean Louise is
angered and bitterly disillusioned by this. Harper Lee
pulls the reader into Jean Louise's anger as I wanted to
yell at Atticus right along with her. However, for me
the most disheartening scene in GO SET A WATCHMAN was one
with Calpurnia as that scene encapsulates the vast
changes in Maycomb more so than any other.
GO SET A WATCHMAN is a perfect fit for a book club, as
the various controversies and perspectives are sure to
generate plenty of discussion. I also think GO SET A
WATCHMAN would be a great example for a writing class or
workshop, as it shows the contrast of how a good writer
can take a rough draft of a good book and turn it into a
modern classic. GO SET A WATCHMAN is not an easy read due
to the topics, but it is definitely one worth reading and
discussing as these issues are all too present in today's
An historic literary event: the publication of a newly
discovered novel, the earliest known work from Harper Lee,
the beloved, bestselling author of the Pulitzer
Prize-winning classic, To Kill a Mockingbird.
Originally written in the mid-1950s, Go Set a
Watchman was the novel Harper Lee first submitted to her
publishers before To Kill a Mockingbird. Assumed to
have been lost, the manuscript was discovered in late 2014.
Go Set a Watchman features many of the characters
from To Kill a Mockingbird some twenty years later.
Returning home to Maycomb to visit her father, Jean Louise
Finch—Scout—struggles with issues both personal and
political, involving Atticus, society, and the small Alabama
town that shaped her.
Exploring how the characters from To Kill a
Mockingbird are adjusting to the turbulent events
transforming mid-1950s America, Go Set a Watchman
casts a fascinating new light on Harper Lee’s enduring
classic. Moving, funny and compelling, it stands as a
magnificent novel in its own right.