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BOOK REVIEW: Go Set a Watchman January 20, 2016

  Go Set a Watchman: A Novel

So, after much consideration, I decided to read Harper Lee’s “Go Set a Watchman.” I had a little bit of a moral conundrum about it: I mean, if she didn’t want me to read it, who am I to invade her privacy like that? But then, who am I to be sure that her caretaker is lying? Anyway, when I saw it propped up on the library table, I grabbed it.

As you’ve no doubt heard, if you’re bothering to read this review, “Go Set a Watchman” is a sequel to Harper Lee’s classic “To Kill a Mockingbird.” In it, Scout is the woman you figured she’d grow up into being: unconventional, smart, feisty, and energetic. She has moved to New York City, and comes home to visit an ailing Atticus. Jem has died young, a victim of the same faulty heart that took Jem and Scout’s mother from them when they were young. Jem’s friend Henry is courting Scout and convinced she will settle down and marry him eventually.

I don’t want to give too many spoilers, but if you’ve been paying half attention, you’ve heard that Atticus Finch turns out to be more racist than you’d guess from “To Kill a Mockingbird.” This doesn’t just surprise everyone who read about him, but Scout as well. This is a book about what happens when we set our heroes too high on a pedestal, about political realities, about going along to get along, about faith and worship, and about how you can’t really know another person unless you are inside their heads. (An aside: you can’t get in someone’s head in real life, but you can in books, and doesn’t that make them wonderful?)

Some of it is a little ham handed. Some of the points get pounded in with a sledgehammer. It seems that Harper Lee had more of an obvious agenda when writing this book than with “Mockingbird.” But none of that changes the stark beauty of Lee’s writing and the insight into people that she has. Atticus and Scout never break character to make their points. And the things Scout has to wrestle with are profoundly interesting and well stated.

One of my favorite lines, because it makes you think so much, is this: “Prejudice, a dirty word, and faith, a clean one, are the same in that they begin where reason ends.”
Whoa, right?

Aside from that, it was the springboard for some interesting conversations with my kids about the ethics of reading it to begin with. I tried asking them the question directly, and when I got blank stares I phrased it this way: “What if J.K. Rowling wrote an 8th Harry Potter book, but said she didn’t want anyone to read it, but then it got published anyway. Would you read it?”

To read more about this book, or to buy a copy, click the handy-dandy Amazon link below.

BOOK REVIEW: Go Set a Watchman

1 Comment

  1. Mary Thornburg

    I agree with your assessment of the book, Lori. Another interesting thing to consider: “Mockingbird” was written AFTER “Watchman,” when Lee’s publisher assigned an editor and the editor convinced Lee to make big changes — basically to write a new book based on the characters and a few incidents included in her “Watchman” manuscript; therefore, “Mockingbird” got a lot more editing than “Watchman” apparently did.

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BOOK REVIEW: Go Set a Watchman

1 Comment

  1. Mary Thornburg

    I agree with your assessment of the book, Lori. Another interesting thing to consider: “Mockingbird” was written AFTER “Watchman,” when Lee’s publisher assigned an editor and the editor convinced Lee to make big changes — basically to write a new book based on the characters and a few incidents included in her “Watchman” manuscript; therefore, “Mockingbird” got a lot more editing than “Watchman” apparently did.

    Reply

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Lori Duff

Lori B. Duff is an award-winning author who practices law on the side.  Her latest book, "If You Did What I Told You..." is set to be released in the Fall of 2019. You can follow her on Twitter at @LoriBDuff and on Facebook. For more blogs written by Lori, click here. For more information about Lori in general, click here. If you want Lori to do your writing for you, click here.

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