Go Set A Watchman – Harper Lee


Chosen by Becks

The first draft of To Kill A Mockingbird, discovered more than 50 years after the release of Mockingbird. Published in it’s draft form it follows Scout as an adult and observes her relationship with her father, Atticus.

❍ “I struggled to get into this book. However, learning a bit more about the interesting stories around its publication inspired me to keep reading. I am left wondering about the way in which fictional characters, especially one as loved as Atticus Finch, can take on a life of their own beyond the pages of the novel. Does his depiction in one novel necessarily affect him in the other?” – Sophia

❍ “I was in emotional turmoil after reading this. At first I was in denial (‘the pages in which all of this is sorted out are missing from my copy!’), then I became angry at Atticus; at Harper Lee; at the publishers. I tweeted about how poorly written it was and how neither the characters nor the plot was inkeeping with the original. (Then I deleted my knee-jerk reaction!) I wanted to throw the book out the window in frustration! A few days later, once I moved onto acceptance, I thought about how this ‘first draft’ published 50 years post had devastated so many ardent fans – and so perhaps was actually a tremendous book. Hmmm. I am still considering the many suggested origins of the manuscript … but the afterthought I enjoy the most (whether accurate or not) is Harper Lee sitting around for 50 years thinking: ‘how can none of you get it?!’.” – Rachel

❍ “As a stand alone book it’s pretty dismal – it’s clunky, there is poor character development, the one childhood memory recall is boring and the theme is unpalatable. Go Set a Watchman is marketed as a first draft for To Kill a Mockingbird so how it turned into a beloved Pulitzer Prize winning novel is somewhat extraordinary. Of particular interest to me is the change in character of Atticus Finch. Was he always this way, and considerably toned down for Mockingbird? Have most of us completely missed this? It feels like the destruction of a hero and that makes this book particularly hard to swallow. It’s not a good read but it provoked an interesting and prolonged discussion at our bookclub and in some ways that is what makes a good book.” – Jo

❍ “This book was a bit of a struggle for me, I think in part as I was aware that I was missing so much of the complexity of the story. I have a poor understanding of American politics, history and society, and this made it difficult to follow. I also felt that to read it felt like an “Author’s rant”, without the subtlety of storyline and character development that To Kill a Mockingbird had. On the positive side, I enjoyed and understand the feminist thread that weaved through the storyline, I suppose because I could relate to it.  I would like to read it again with more care and focus, with a view to understanding it better.” – Sonya

Written 1957; published 2015
Harper Collins
288 pages

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