Go Set A Watchman | Harper Lee

Friday, 5 May 2017

As a big fan of To Kill a Mockingbird I initially wasn't going to read this book because of all the controversy surrounding it. But I was gifted it for Christmas and decided to give it a go. 

Maycomb, Alabama. Twenty-six-year-old Jean Louise Finch – ‘Scout’ – returns home from New York City to visit her ageing father, Atticus. Set against the backdrop of the civil rights tensions and political turmoil that were transforming the South, Jean Louise’s homecoming turns bittersweet when she learns disturbing truths about her close-knit family, the town and the people dearest to her. Memories from her childhood flood back, and her values and assumptions are thrown into doubt.

This book is surprising and takes turns that I never thought it would take. It turns the characters on their head and lets you look at them in a different way some for better, but mostly for worse. You can tell that Harper Lee wrote this quickly as the setting jumps around constantly. You can also tell; in my opinion that it was close to being un-published. I think you should be aware of the controversy before reading this book, the fact that Lee's health was deteriorating and her publishers decided to release this book before her death. That she might not have had full mental capacity to agree to its release and the suggestion that she probably didn't want it published and they did it anyway. I think you can tell all of these things while you're reading it.

People are now saying it was a first draft before TKAMB and I can kind of see where they're coming from there, but in other ways I can't because the timeline does not add up. The most heart wrenching thing about this book for me is that the well-known and beloved character of Atticus Finch; my favourite character in a book ever, is turned into a bit of a monster. His character arc shows him slowly leaning into the town's prejudice and racism and agreeing with them. This is completely opposite to the Atticus in the first book and quite sad to read actually, seems as I want to name my first cat after him! Although this new and surprising character arc is disappointing, Scout's character is still badass and carefree which I absolutely love! As well as Atticus, Scout is also one of my fave' characters in a book and she keeps up her rebellious and forward thinking stature all the way through the book. People constantly telling her she is wrong, just like the first book. And her just sticking her tomboy middle finger up to them all, even her soon to be husband Henry.

As for the plot, it doesn't really go anywhere. To be honest I can barely remember what happened apart from some of the main parts of the story. I came away quite bitter from it and with a lot of questions about the drastic character changes. It's still an important and historical book and portrays 1950's America iconically, but I just can't escape the fact that everything was so different compared to the first book. It does make me wonder whether Lee genuinely wanted it to be published or kept secret forever, I guess people will never know now. I need to find a new name for my first cat. 

If you have read this book I would love to hear your opinion. We're you as surprised with the change of  character arcs as I was ? And if you haven't read it, would you read it after knowing about the controversy behind it?


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