Go Set A Watchman. Harper Lee.

IMG_5364I have tried to maintain a media blackout while I read this. To be honest, it wasn’t as difficult as I expected. Just one comment scrolled by on Facebook and I gave it a wide berth. I’ve opted to write this before I google.

I am no scholar; I can only tell you whether I enjoy a book and how it makes me feel. Right, here goes.

Through the first half of the book I was convinced that Go Set A Watchman was a phony. I’ve read my fair share of Pride And Prejudice fan fiction. There’s a certain, lazy pleasure in having someone else imagine a future for your favourite characters. Methadone for Darcy addicts. Of course it’s not as good as the original but it’s a bit of fun. It works for Pride and Prejudice because Jane Austen’s writing is all about having fun.IMG_5366 Anyway, I thought Go Set A Watchman was reading a lot like Mockingbird fan fiction. We are transported back to Maycomb, all our favourite characters get a mention and Atticus Finch is a Gregory Peck shaped super hero. The problem is that nobody wants to read Harper Lee fan fiction. They want to read more Harper Lee.

I read the second half in one sitting and I have to say, I started to roll with it a little. I chuckled through chapter 12 (falsies) which was, for me, the highlight of the book. I think that Chapter 12 could stand alone in a way that the book, as a whole, can’t.  I was saddened by Scout’s disillusionment with her father (sad for Atticus, not Jean-Louise). I almost cheered when Uncle Jack, the hero, informs Scout that she is an ordinary turnip-sized bigot ( not really a spoiler).

I thought that grown-up Scout was a self-righteous whine. Hank, the Southern gentleman, is adorable. Uncle Jack is so similar to Professor Snape that I think J.K. Rowling was lucky to have had her book published first (surely the role should go to Alan Rickman). The wonderful Calpurnia doesn’t get a whole lot of lovin’, for all the talk of colour blindness.

I have only a sketchy idea of the story behind this book. It is, quite clearly, unfinished. It is also clear that Harper Lee was not happy to publish it, as it stood, for over half a century. Why didn’t she polish it up and cash in?

My guess would be that the author of To Kill A Mockingbird could see that Go Set A Watchman doesn’t add anything of value. This one doesn’t match and certainly doesn’t complete the other.

And as for Atticus, I hated everything that this book did to Atticus Finch. Let’s just dust him off, put him back up on his pedestal and leave him there.wpid-wp-1434120724351.jpeg

5 thoughts on “Go Set A Watchman. Harper Lee.

  1. I’ve just finished Watchman and I agree that Chapter 12 was a good one! I liked a lot of the flashback to childhood scenes (and I suppose that’s why Mockingbird is written entirely from Scout’s childhood perspective) but as you say, I think the adult Jean Louise and elderly Atticus detract from in this book undermine the versions of both characters we know and love in Mockingbird.

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  2. I don’t think I’ve read either book, but the literary conundrum you explain so well fascinates me. I feel sure you’re right – this should just be seen as notes, ideas, what ifs that the author deliberately held back.

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