Review: ‘Go Set A Watchman’ is no book for ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ fans

Aug 24, 2015 by     Comments Off on Review: ‘Go Set A Watchman’ is no book for ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ fans    Posted under: Book Emporium, General, Hang Out

Ever since its announcement Harper Lee’s Go Se A Watchman has been a matter of controversy among fans. Now it has arrived finally and readers, including myself, aren’t happy.

The book picks up on the life of Scout Finch, now known as Jean Louise Finch, as she is taking a train ride back to her childhood home of Maycomb County, Alabama from New York, 20 years after the events of To Kill A Mockingbird. As you open the book, turn to read the first page and are introduced to Scout reminiscing about her home it feels as though you’re greeting a childhood friend whom you haven’t met in ages.

Scout or rather Jean Loiuse has come home to visit her father Atticus Finch whom we remember as the favorable protagonist and hero from To Kill A Mockingbird. The first few days of her visit are uneventful and yet she feels something off about her father and the rest of Maycomb. Until one day when she accidentally stumbles upon Atticus in a meeting of racist segregationists. After that incident she sees her father as unrecognizable, a stranger.

The book is set just after the landmark Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court ruling in 1954, which deemed segregation in schools unconstitutional. Given the current climate in the United States, in a way the timing of Go Set A Watchman could not have been more perfect, which leads me to  question this book’s rather unexpected and controversial discovery; perhaps the manuscript of this “sequel” never existed before as we were led to believe and the sole purpose of this book’s publication is because of the current tumultuous time the United States is facing concerning its’ Black population. The Ferguson shootings and mistreatment of black people.

Another aspect that feeds this controversy is that Harper Lee, after publishing her beloved novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” in 1960, she not only never published another book but for most of that time she insisted she never would. Until now, that is, when she’s 89, a frail, hearing and sight-impaired stroke victim living in a nursing home. Just as important, her sister Alice, Lee’s long-time protector, passed away last November. Her new protector, Tonja Carter, who had worked in Alice Lee’s law office, is the one who supposedly discovered and bought the “new novel” to Harper Collins’s attention, claiming, conveniently, to have found it shortly before Alice died.

The point that most readers are stuck on is this new, unfamiliar Atticus Finch. Where is the man who fought a losing battle just because he thought he should? The man whom Scout looked to as her moral compass is gone. It doesn’t fit with the character who was more saint than man, and who was entrenched further by the 1962 film starring Gregory Peck, for which he was awarded the Academy Award for Best Actor.

Sadly there isn’t much in Go Set A Watchman for fans of To Kill A Mockingbird. Two of the most beloved characters are immediately dismissed after a few sentences, never to be heard from again. With that dismissal and the look into the never-before-seen side to Atticus, and on top of that Scout’s response towards the end its hard to believe this book was penned by Harper Lee who’s depiction of Scout Finch in her previous masterpiece was flawless; the Scout would not give in so easily to what she believes is wrong even to her last breath.

Atticus is the most interesting point. There can be many interpretations to his new character; perhaps time has changed his ideals and beliefs, perhaps age has changed his perspectives, or perhaps nothing has changed at all and this is just a different side to him. Like Scout we have to greet the reality which is that he is human first and last, he has his flaws, his inconsistencies. We made him into a God after Mockingbird and now we’re upset because he showed to be no more than human. Complexity is characteristic of good characters.


It would be unfair to both the books to compare them with each other. However To Kill A Mockingbird is a standard impossible to beat. Go Set A Watchman is complex, challenging, fascinating, complicated in many ways and it might prove to be damaging and disappointing to many readers especially those with the highest of hopes for it, We do need to understand that our heroes, before you think of them as your heroes think of them as human because that is what they.

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