Go Set A Watchman

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Harper Lee
Harper
c/o Harper Collins
95 Broadway, New York, NY 100007
www.harpercollins.com
978006249850, $27.99, www.amazon.com

In close to forty years I’ve been a reviewer, I’ve never seen a book encounter so much negative attention as “Go Set A Watchman” In fact I can’t recall a bookstore saying if readers do not like the book, it can be returned. Too many critics and readers want “Go Set A Watchman” to be another “To Kill a Mockingbird.” This is the same mind set of many “Star Trek” fans who were so negative to “Star Trek The Next Generation.” In both cases it is their loss because both are very well done but very different. The history of this book is interesting because “Go Set A Watchman” is the first novel Lee submitted along with some other writings. It is the other writings that were expanded to became the novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” “Go Set A Watchman” was stored away until Harper Lee’s friend and attorney found the original manuscript and a manuscript copy of “To Kill a Mockingbird” in a safety deposit box sometime last year. It was submitted for publication to Harper Collins with no major changes made to the original work. Hemingway cautioned authors to store away and not publish their first novel but work on getting the second one published. That is partly the case with this novel.

“Go Set A Watchman” is enjoyable and worth reading. Jean Louise Finch (Scout) is now 26 years of age and been away living and working in New York City. She comes home for a visit and learns that things are not the way she always believed. She is sickened to find that her father Atticus Finch is a racist and that everyone she knew is not what she thought. Through the use of flashbacks Harper Lee shows the difference in Jean Louise Finch’s feelings towards the other people she adored until now. For some readers the fact that her father Atticus is a racist is very hard to take because of the depiction of him in “To Kill a Mockingbird” and in that novel he defended a black defendant. In “Go See a Watchman” we learn that he took the case because he could not tolerate the injustice that was being done to an innocent man. People also tend to forget that Jean Louise Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird” was 6 years old and that she believed her father could do no wrong. Now she is older, wiser and changed because she has been away from her roots that have not changed. How many of us adored our parents as kids and learned something in later life that changed our perception of them. “Go Set a Watchman” is a fast paced wonderful character study of how our perceptions change based on life experiences.