Go Set A Watchman

29 Sep


I’ve been dragging my feet writing this post and just as I suspected, the hype, hoopla, and reviews of Go Set A Watchman have settled down, if not gone away altogether. As they should.

Imagine if Universal Studios got their hands on one of Steven Spielberg’s 8mm teenage attempts at filmmaking. Now imagine if they took one of those movies, burned it to DVD, and sold it as “Steven Spielberg’s Lost Movie.” I’m not sure it would sell well. I’m pretty sure it was never intended for public viewing. Maybe some die-hard fans or curiosity seekers would buy, but most of us would continue to enjoy the massive body of quality work he already has out there.

Harper Lee and her original publisher never intended Go Set A Watchman to see the light of day. It was a rejected draft, that inspired and eventually became To Kill A Mockingbird. Unfortunately, Harper Lee didn’t have anything else out there. She became this elusive, mysterious person living under the guidance and protection of her close relatives. The world wanted more.

Harper Lee’s sister, Alice Lee – an Alabama lawyer, took care of most of her legal affairs. She passed away in November of 2014. On 3 February 2015, Harper Collins announced they had acquired the manuscript and the rights to publish Go Set A Watchman.

Despite the reports that Harper Lee was thrilled to have her book published, I can’t shake the feeling that a wrong was done.

These are the reservations I carried with me as I read the novel. Since I distrusted the acquisition of the draft and motivation for publishing, I was also less inclined to believe that the publisher left the manuscript as they found it. Therefore, it is hard to review or comment on a novel surrounded by so many questions.

I can only share my impressions….

~ At times it reads like fan-fiction. (My first reaction when Hank, who was never mentioned in TKAM, shows up as Scout’s love interest.)

~ There were discrepancies in some details that indicated a need for more editing such as: references to the house they grew up in, and the time-frame of Cal’s departure from the household. (this would support the claim that they published it “as is”)

~ I don’t “buy” Scout as Jean Louise. I’ve read other reviewers who claim that the character reads exactly as they would have expected Scout to be as a grown-up, because it was just like her. That is precisely the problem. How many of us act just like our 6,7,8 year old self? I certainly expect Jean Louise to have the spunk and personality of Scout, but so often in the book, she acts like a petulant child, rather than a mature young woman.

~ It tries too hard to be a racially controversial novel with Jean Louise/Harper Lee constantly moralizing to the readers. TKAM reported life, as it happened, through the eyes of a child. We heard and saw the clear message and injustice in the world without petulant speeches.

All this being said…am I glad I read it? Absolutely.

In the author/publishing world this book was the biggest news of the year, and I choose to be relevant. And…despite my complaints, there were parts where I lost myself in the story and fully enjoyed Harper Lee’s prose.

Even as Go Set A Watchman falls off the bestseller lists and turns up on dusty shelves in used bookstores, it has given us an invaluable glimpse into the life and work of a writer. We have seen what usually remains hidden…the first envisioning, the first ideas, the first completed draft of a novel that through many revisions and reworkings became the Pulitzer prize winning book To Kill A Mockingbird.



Posted by on September 29, 2015 in Uncategorized


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5 responses to “Go Set A Watchman

  1. alilovesbooks

    September 29, 2015 at 1:46 pm

    I only recently read To Kill a Mockingbird and while I’m glad I read it I didn’t love it. I wasn’t entirely sure I want to read this but you’re review makes me think I probably should.


    • kathryndean2013

      September 29, 2015 at 2:32 pm

      I’m glad I read it for the reasons already mentioned, but it was also very thought provoking. It’s a little hard to wrap your brain around the fact that this book in a sense is a prequel to TKAM, but the characters are older and more polarizing. You almost have to read them as two separate stories.

      Liked by 1 person

      • alilovesbooks

        September 29, 2015 at 9:58 pm

        Someone at work is reading at the moment and seems to be really enjoying it. Might try to steal it after she’s finished.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Levi

    October 11, 2015 at 6:40 pm

    Nice review. A lot has been written about this book, but you brought up a couple more points I hadn’t considered. One is that it reads like fan fiction, ha. That’s about right. The other that you don’t buy Scout as Jean Louise. I thought this was especially a problem when she had multiple arguments that bordered on tantrums. Anyway, you can read my review if you’re so inclined:

    Oh, and nice theme for your site. 🙂 Take care.


    • kathryndean2013

      October 13, 2015 at 1:59 pm

      Thanks for your comment! I agree with many of the points you brought up in your review as well. I also was taken aback by her uncle’s slap. It seemed like it belonged in a second rate comedy, or maybe it was a nod to the idea of the time that it was an acceptable way to deal with a hysterical woman.

      Liked by 1 person


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