Twenty-six-year-old Jean Louise Finch–“Scout”–returns home from New York City to visit her aging father, Atticus. Set against the backdrop of the civil rights tensions and political turmoil that were transforming the South, Jean Louise’s homecoming turns bittersweet when she learns disturbing truths about her close-knit family, the town and the people dearest to her. Memories from her childhood flood back, and her values and assumptions are thrown into doubt. Featuring many of the iconic characters from To Kill a Mockingbird, Go Set a Watchman perfectly captures a young woman, and a world, in a painful yet necessary transition out of the illusions of the past–a journey that can be guided only by one’s conscience.
The long awaited sequel to Harper Lee’s classic has proved to be a slightly painful experience for some fans. The majority of our group were, to say the least, underwhelmed with it. Others found it totally unreadable, and then some found it impossible to believe Lee even wrote it!
Why? When the author is credited with writing one of the best novels of all time! Good question … and one we tried (in vain) to answer.
Much of the disappointment is seeded in the downfall of Atticus and the annoying immaturity of the adult Scout, but there were also several comments concerning the quality of the writing. Those of us who believe To Kill a Mockingbird to be one of the greats found it a stretch of the imagination that Lee could produce such a light weight novel.
With a little research into its publication, as a group we decided that the publishers who first read Watchman, turned Lee down for good reason. In fact, they probably did her a huge favour as, apparently, she then went on to write Mockingbird.
We did have some more positive opinions expressed. Those who enjoyed the Watchman sequel found it to be a realistic telling of the times. The fear of changes that were to come with the NAACP would have been widespread, and Atticus could not help but be influenced and guided by them. And Scout’s disillusionment and subsequent rebuking of her father gave her character the ideology of the young, something many parents received during such tumultuous times.
It could be said that Mockingbird itself might well be Watchman’s worst enemy. For if you have had Atticus and Scout on a pedestal for 50 years, you are not likely to welcome a story that brings them crashing to earth!
But in the end, if you want a conclusion to the Mockingbird tale, Go Set a Watchman is what’s on offer. As readers, we then have the power to accept or reject. Which will you do?