Title: Go Set a Watchman
Author: Harper Lee
Genre: Southern Fiction
Rating: 3.5/5 (maybe)
Jean Louise Finch (Scout) returns to her southern hometown of Maycomb many years after the time portrayed in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” She has been living in New York where the way of life is vastly different from a small, southern town and has influenced her worldview. Jean Louise experiences a culture shock and has to reconcile what she remembers from her childhood with reality and learn how to become her own person and stand up for what she believes in.
I read “To Kill a Mockingbird” for the first time earlier this year and absolutely fell in love with it. When I finally got my hands on “Go Set a Watchman,” I was ecstatic. I took the time to read some reviews of the book before diving in, and it led me to be very wary of what to expect. There was a lot of backlash about Atticus’s character, but I try to take all reviews with a grain of salt because I often have different views on popular books. This one left me conflicted.
I understand the outrage about Atticus’s character, but I also understand where Harper Lee was coming from when she wrote him in that manner. In TKAM he was touted as having crystal clear, always right judgement (from Scout’s point of view). Learning his motives and the truth behind his actions in GSAW is shocking, and Jean Louise’s reaction is understandable. But I commend Harper Lee for showing the complexities of human character and how no one is solely good or bad.
Jean Louise’s growth as a character is the best part of this book. Dropping her idol worship of her father and facing the realities of what happened in the past and what was happening in her present pushed her into true maturation, and seeing her come into her own was beautiful.
Overall, though, the book didn’t hold the same magical charm that TKAM did for me. Maybe it’s because TKAM was told through the eyes of a child, but the world of GSAW didn’t suck me in in the same way. If I hadn’t read TKAM first, I wouldn’t have cared as much about the characters because I wouldn’t have had all of that backstory that shows why Jean Louise is the way that she is.
“To Kill a Mockingbird” was a five star for me, but I just can’t seem to settle on a rating for “Go Set a Watchman.”