I publicly proclaimed that I was not going to read this book. And I really, really didn’t want to read. But it was picked for book club so I had two choices: (1) don’t read it or (2) read it and try to keep an open mind. I chose option 2. Am I glad I did? Eh. Not really.
Let me start by saying that the reasons I am not impressed with this book have NOTHING to do with Atticus attending a Klan meeting or being a racist. That is what it is and to me, it does diminish the man he is in To Kill A Mockingbird. Watchman is also not a sequel or prequel for Mockingbird. It is a stand-alone draft. Yes, I said it. It’s a draft. It’s obvious when you read this book that it has not been edited in any meaningful way.
Go Set A Watchman is the story of Jean Louise Finch (Scout) coming home to visit in Alabama from New York when she is a young woman. It is the story of her encounters with the mid-50s South and her feelings about those encounters. Keeping in mind when and where this story takes place, helps with the “Atticus” situation in that at least it places it in perspective.
My problem with this book is that is is obviously a draft. It has an inconsistent voice. It has an inconsistent tone. It is the product of a young writer who has not yet honed her skills. I think it diminishes Harper Lee’s legacy. But it really doesn’t matter what I think about that.
Jean Louise spends a lot of time in the book railing against what she perceives as the racism and backwardness of her community. But it doing so, she proves to be as rigid and as stuck as the people she complains about. Maybe that was Lee’s intent, but it doesn’t read that way. The book really reads as a long rant against the South and disillusionment. But it does not read as a finished product.
Would I recommend this book? It depends. If you have read and adore To Kill A Mockingbird, you may want to skip it. If you are interested in seeing how her mind works and how the writing process works, then you may like. Overall, I could have lived my life without having read it. But it does not and will never change the way I feel about To Kill A Mockingbird and its quiet perfection.