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Go Set a Watchman

Go Set a Watchman 4

by Harper Lee
Publication Date: 14/07/2015
4/5 Rating 4 Reviews

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Featured in our Best Books of 2015

The most anticipated book of 2015! Go Set a Watchman is the newly discovered novel by Harper Lee, author of To Kill A Mockingbird. Announced on 4 February, the news came as a surprise and sent the literary world into a spin with anticipation and excitement! 

Go Set a Watchman is set during the mid-1950s and features many of the characters from To Kill a Mockingbird some twenty years later. Scout (Jean Louise Finch) has returned to Maycomb from New York to visit her father Atticus. She is forced to grapple with issues both personal and political as she tries to understand both her father’s attitude toward society, and her own feelings about the place where she was born and spent her childhood. An instant classic.

After To Kill a Mockingbird was published in 1960, Harper Lee set aside Go Set a Watchman, and never returned to it. The original manuscript of the novel was considered to have been lost until the autumn of 2014, when Tonja Carter discovered it in a secure location where it had been affixed to an original typescript of To Kill a Mockingbird.

Harper Lee says, `In the mid-1950s, I completed a novel called Go Set a Watchman. It features the character known as Scout as an adult woman and I thought it a pretty decent effort. My editor, who was taken by the flashbacks to Scout’s childhood, persuaded me to write a novel from the point of view of the young Scout. I was a first-time writer, so I did as I was told. I hadn’t realised it had survived, so was surprised and delighted when my dear friend and lawyer Tonja Carter discovered it. After much thought and hesitation I shared it with a handful of people I trust and was pleased to hear that they considered it worthy of publication. I am humbled and amazed that this will now be published after all these years.’
Contemporary fiction
Publication Date:
William Heinemann
Country of origin:
United Kingdom
Harper Lee

Harper Lee was born in 1926 in Monroeville, Alabama. She attended Huntington College and studied law at the University of Alabama.

She is the author of the acclaimed novels To Kill A Mockingbird and Go Set A Watchman, and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and numerous other literary awards and honours.

She died on 19 February 2016.

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4 Reviews

This book is not as good as To Kill A Mockinbird. Harpers Lee never wanted this book published & her wishes should have been respected

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Go Set a Watchman is the second published novel by American author, Harper Lee. It was written before To Kill A Mockingbird, but not published until 55 years after that book. Now twenty-six years old and living in New York, Jean Louise Finch travels to Maycomb for her regular two-week visit with her ageing father. Atticus is seventy-two and often debilitated by rheumatoid arthritis, but he does have young Henry Clifton to work his law practice, and his sister Alexandra lives in the Finch house to help with daily activities. Henry is pressing Jean Louise to marry him, and although Aunt Alexandra considers him unsuitable, Jean Louise finds herself actually thinking seriously about it:
“She was almost in love with him. No, that’s impossible, she thought: either you are or you aren’t. Love’s the only thing in this world that is unequivocal. There are different kinds of love, certainly, but it’s a you-do or you-don’t proposition with them all”

But just a few days into her stay, she discovers, quite by chance, something that rocks her to the core, something that has her actually doubting the foundation of her values. Until then, “She did not stand alone, but what stood behind her, the most potent moral force in her life, was the love of her father. She never questioned it, never thought about it, never even realized that before she made any decision of importance the reflex, ‘What would Atticus do?’ passed through her unconscious; she never realized what made her dig in her feet and stand firm whenever she did was her father; that whatever was decent and of good report in her character was put there by her father; she did not know that she worshipped him”

There has been quite some criticism of this book, and some of that is valid. Jean Louise’s rant in Part VI could certainly do with editing, and while it does not sparkle quite like To Kill A Mockingbird, and perhaps the characters are not quite as well-formed or appealing as that book, nonetheless, Go Set A Watchman has humour and wisdom. It forms a welcome complement to To Kill A Mockingbird, and Jean Louise’s reminiscences of her childhood are quite delightful. At least one passage is lifted wholly from this book and inserted into TKAM, perhaps hardly surprising.

Lee’s character descriptions are every bit as good as in TKAM: “She was a person who, when confronted with an easy way out, always took the hard way” and “She was completely unaware that with one twist of the tongue she could plunge Jean Louise into a moral turmoil by making her niece doubt her own motives and best intentions, by tweaking the protestant, philistine strings of Jean Louise’s conscience until they vibrated like a spectral zither” are examples.

A knowledge of Civil Rights legislation in the mid-fifties comes in handy, but Uncle Jack’s words of wisdom are as succinct and universally applicable as they ever were, as demonstrated by: “Prejudice, a dirty word, and faith, a clean one, have something in common: they both begin where reason ends” and “…the time your friends need you is when they’re wrong, jean Louise. They don’t need you when they’re right”.

It’s not To Kill A Mockingbird, but it’s still a good read!

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Harper Lee's second book does not disappoint. As in To Kill A Mocking Bird it is beautifully written. To see Atticus through the adult Scout's eyes and recognise his humanness and fallibility is interesting as is the family dynamics, I highly recommend this book and cannot understand the criticism from some quarters. I shall not expose anything more about the books content as I do not wish to spoil the pleasure of the read and a great pleasure it is.

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