Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee *no spoilers*

Monday, July 20, 2015

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The initial thought I had when I read the first few chapters was how much I missed Harper Lee's writing. Her prose is just as beautiful, just as poetic, and just as eloquent as I remembered. She has a way of creating imagery and of putting meaningful messages without trying hard to do so. I also found it incredibly difficult to put it down and yet, I made a decision to take my time with it because I didn't want it to be over so soon. Overall, it was a real treat just being able to devour her words again. 

As I started getting through the book a bit more, like I just mentioned, I found myself in love with the writing. Then I asked myself, "Would I like these characters and story, as well as their developments, if this was not written by Harper Lee? If it was not a sequel of To Kill A Mockingbird? Would I still be invested or would I think 'eeehh it's alright?'"

I am saying this because I think my favorite part of this novel was because it's connected to To Kill A Mockingbird. This brought me back to the settings and characters of the story that I loved. It almost felt like a grand reunion of childhood friends after years of not seeing or hearing from each other. I'd ask myself too; "am I still friends with these people in this reunion or are we united by the memories of our friendship so long ago? Other than that, what else do we have in common?" Comparing it to a reunion made me think about how I love the connection, but if I didn't know anything about its background, I wonder if I would still like the book as much as I do.

That being said, the biggest strength of this book is how it's driven by such well-written characters. They are still realistic and believable, and I loved that this book offered a more complex view of them. In my opinion, they have become more multifaceted in my eyes, and it proved many things to me. First, it really showed how innocent children can be when growing up. As kids, we were protected from many things, and as we got older, we discovered more things about life. It's an inevitable part of maturity and of growing up. Go Set A Watchman did a great job exploring this. 
It also did a great job showing how nobody and nothing can be just black or white. There are gray areas, there are middle grounds, and also common grounds. No one is just a bad person or a good person; everyone has a light and dark side. Ultimately, as people, we are just trying our best to survive everyday despite our flaws and life's challenges. 
This book also showed that there is something to learn and discover everyday, and we must open our minds more. While boldness is an admirable characteristic, we must  not assume we are in the right all the time because the truth is, we're not. What we can do is always hear both sides of every person involved or every story, learn from our mistakes, learn from others, and just try to be better people in our society more and more each day.

Technically speaking, as a sequel of a classic, I feel it is not strong enough to be considered 'complete.' It read more like a scattered draft - a great one at that - but not quite a finished novel. It didn't feel cohesive enough. 
The great thing about books though is that we do not just read them for their literary merit. We read books for different reasons, and for this one, I read it for the experience. It made me feel nostalgic, and it showed me that the best characters to read about (like Atticus and Scout) are the ones who are real, flawed, believable, and true. 
If you are still debating whether or not to read it because you are afraid it will ruin To Kill A Mockingbird, my advice is for you to just push everything aside and read with an open-mind. Read it for what it is, let go of your expectations, and maybe you'd also be able to appreciate it as much as I did too.


12 comments:

  1. Excellent review! You make some really good points especially about how there are gray areas--things we don't really notice when we are children. I had planned to reread To Kill a Mockingbird before I read this book since I read TKAM when I was a teen but I think now I will just read Go Set a Watchman.

    I read that this is not a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird which would explain why it didn't feel like a finished or cohesive story. When Harper Lee submitted it for publication it was suggested that she focus on Jean Louise's childhood instead. In a way this book is almost like an early draft of the book that would become To Kill a Mockingbird which would also explain the changes in Atticus's character.

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    1. Thank you, Christina.
      I reread TKAM this year and have to say it's so different compared to when I read it in high school. I appreciate it even more now, and am glad I reread it. And good points on how it was published. That makes sense!

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  2. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on this, Jillian; I've certainly been hesitant to go for it, just because I wasn't sure how I would feel about opening up this "can of worms," so to speak! I think you make a great recommendation in allowing the book to be its own experience; this is so helpful! Great post!

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    1. At first I also didn't want to read it because I was too scared to find out what the fuss was about, but I'm very glad I did!

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  3. Read it with an open mind, I completely agree! It was wonderful to return to that world, but these are characters at a very different stage in life and it's only fair to not spend the whole book comparing them. Great review!

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    1. Thanks, Melissa. I know you loved GSAW as well. I'm glad that I did too.

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  4. Don't you wish Harper Lee had written more books? I think GSAW will quench some readers' thirst for more of her writing, but it would be even greater if we had a new story instead of a first draft!

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    1. Yeah, it really is such a sad thing that the world will no longer read anything from Harper Lee. She's such a great writer.

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  5. Glad you liked Watchman. I plan to read it soon. I just reread TKAM and wrote about that.

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    1. Awesome. TKAM is such a great classic.

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  6. Great review! I haven't jumped on this one yet, but I plan to eventually. I like that you went into it with such an open mind, because I feel like so many of the people attacking it went into the book with very set expectations, which were very much dashed. I think you have to take this book for exactly what it is, and not go into it with a bunch of hopes and dreams about Scout/Atticus based on what you previously knew of them.

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    1. I agree with you. I understand it's hard to set those expectations, but we really have to try to give it a fair chance by reading it objectively as much as we can.

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