Just in case the post heading doesn’t make it clear – this post WILL contain spoilers! Probably none that you haven’t already seen in the media coverage and excitement over the release of this book, but spoilers nonetheless. The reason is that I don’t think I am really able to review Go Set A Watchman without revealing spoilers. So you have been warned…!
This book was written prior to Harper Lee’s classic To Kill a Mockingbird (hereafter referred to as TKAM), but the publishers apparently urged her to go back and write a story from Scout Finch’s point of view, which resulted in TKAM. It hardly needs pointing out that that book became a modern classic, a set text, beloved by almost everyone who read it. It also created in Atticus Finch, a true literary hero – a man who stood up for his principles and for what was right, despite huge and sometimes violent opposition.
Go Set a Watchman also concentrates mainly on Scout’s point of view, but Scout is now 26, living in New York and known by her proper name, Jean Louise. When she comes back to Maycomb to visit her family, she is shocked to realise that Atticus is not the hero she had previously considered him to be, and that in fact he supports segregation between black and white people. Her horror as she sees her much loved and respected father at a council meeting about how to keep black people out of white people’s business is shared by the reader. How can he do this to us? This shining example of all that is good and right is actually a racist???
The hurt is compounded when she discovers that the only reason he agrees to defend a black man accused of manslaughter is to stop the NAACP defending him and demanding black people on juries and wanting other rights to which Atticus and most citizens of Maycomb do not believe they should be entitled.
So for many reasons, this book was not entirely comfortable reading. The writing itself is not as polished and does not flow as easily as TKAM, but it IS very readable, and for the most part, despite the subject, I did enjoy it. However, the last part of the book (and once again there are going to be major spoilers here) when Jean Louise confronts her father and he explains his reasons for behaving the way he does – basically, he says that he is still a good guy but for the sake of all that is good and holy, those black people cannot be allowed the same rights as white people – is uneasy to stomach, especially when Jean Louise ends up coming around and sees his beliefs from his point of view.
All in, I would say that I am glad I read this, and would recommend it to fans of TKAM.
(For more information about the author, please click here.)