“I need a watchman to tell me this is what a man says but this is what he means, to draw a line down the middle and say here is this justice and there is that justice and make me understand the difference.”
From the moment I finished reading “To Kill a Mocking Bird,” I ached for another Harper Lee title to devour. So when I passed an Exclusive Books store and saw the bright orange covers decorating their display, I had to have a copy – especially since my birthday was days away.
By the author of “To Kill a Mocking Bird”, Go Set Watchmen chronicles Jean-Louis Finch’s return to Maycomb to look after her aging father. But when she gets home, Jean-Louis, aka Scout, finds that her beloved town and the people she holds dear have changed. Or have they?
In “Go Set a Watchman” Scout discovers the racial tensions that have shaped her society, her family, and herself.
What I liked
Returning to Maycomb and “visiting” with Jean-Louis, Aunt Alexandra, and Atticus was a highlight. I could relate with Scout’s journey home and seeing everyone with a new perspective.
everyone again after all these year. I also enjoyed the moments when Scout reminisces about her youth, her rows with Cal, and annoyances with Jem. I guess it was more the nostalgia of it all than anything else.
Nostalgia aside, Chapters 18 and 19 were okay. In these chapters, Scout, who is angry that her father and fiancé are opposed to the civil rights movement, shares her vexation with her uncle, Jack. But instead of a sympathetic ear, he make her see the light. Uncle Jack spends two chapters explaining why conservative white Americans are “justified” in opposing the civil rights movement and its aftermath.
I don’t agree with any of his claims. Go Set a Watchman, and these chapters in particular, voice the other side of the civil rights discourse. We seldom hear, see, or read literature that shed light on why these movements are opposed. Although I don’t hold those views, I feel it’s important that such voices exist in literature.
What I didn’t like
“Go Set a Watchman” was disappointing, to say the least. I found it unnecessarily long, and there was no clear plot to speak of. It dragged. I didn’t appreciate how all the characters told Scout “You don’t understand”, or “Try looking at things from my perspective” – which is fine but it felt like everyone was telling Scout We are right you are wrong. Also after her conversation with her uncle Scout is so vexed that she wants to leave town. However, after her uncle slaps her she suddenly has an epiphany and everything makes sense. In two sentences she goes from “I’m leaving don’t stop me” to “It all makes sense now” which is unrealistic and disappointing. After that paragraph, I skipped to the last page and ended my misery.
I would recommend Go Set a Watchman as a collector’s piece. It’s Harper Lee’s original manuscript and thus has literary and sentimental value. The orange cover will also liven up any bookshelf. Having said that, I would not recommend reading it as fiction. Perhaps as a literary insight into an author’s refining process.
I’ll give it 2/5 stars.
About the Author
Harper Lee was born in 1926 in Monroeville, 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 honors. She died on February 19, 2016.
What is your favourite historical fiction book?