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Go Set A Watchman

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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.

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Posted by on September 29, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Book Review: The Husband’s Secret

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As you may remember, I reviewed Liane Moriarty’s previous book, What Alice Forgot, and recommended it to everyone I know. So you can imagine my excitement to read her latest book, The Husband’s Secret. I hate to post a negative review, but I learned a hard lesson. Just because you love one book by an author, doesn’t mean you will love every book by that author.

What Alice Forgot, was a sweet, poignant story of a woman trying to figure out what went wrong with her marriage and how to fix it. It followed one family’s story with flashes of memory between 10 years before and the present. The Husband’s Secret tells the story of at least three different families. It starts by telling each families’ story in alternating chapters. It ends with each families’ story intersecting. This method of storytelling has become an increasingly popular way to handle multiple characters and often multiple narrators or points of view, but to the average reader it can be confusing and tedious. Jodi Picoult did this successfully in My Sister’s Keeper. She used it as a way to tell one families story through the perspective of each family member. But I digress…

The cover of the book has this grabber:

“For my wife, Cecilia Fitzpatrick
To be opened only in the event of my death”
Cecilia finds this letter in a box of old tax receipts in the attic. She has no idea that it will blow their serene, suburban lives apart.

The letter is a Pandora’s Box in the sense that evil she had never known was revealed when she opened the letter. Without giving away the story, I will tell you this. When I finished devouring it, (Yes, didn’t like it, but couldn’t.stop.reading) I had to verbally process the story with my husband. As I finished, he was obviously disturbed, like didn’t even want to talk to me anymore disturbed. “Why would you read something like that, and why would you put me through it?”

I didn’t mean to! I felt duped. I loved her other book full of hope and sympathetic characters. This book takes some of your worst nightmares and lets them play out in characters’ lives who I’m not even sure I like very well. The characters make extremely selfish decisions and then pick up the pieces of their lives and move on. In some cases the repercussions of the selfish decisions are treated as an inside joke. In other cases the selfish decisions cause terrible tragedy.

If you spend some time looking at reviews on Amazon, you will see that my opinion is in the minority. But for the sake of mine and my husband’s sanity I will review carefully before reading another of her books. I still enjoy Liane Moriarty’s writing style for the most part and will probably follow her blog.

 
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Posted by on November 21, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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