Thursday, November 19, 2015

Book Review: Go Set a Watchman!!

I can't really talk about Go Set a Watchman without To Kill a Mockingbird.  
Although Watchman was written first, Mockingbird is the better novel.  The characters are more real and likable.  This doesn't mean there isn't value in both novels.  

Book Description from Amazon: 
From Harper Lee comes a landmark new novel set two decades after her beloved Pulitzer Prize–winning masterpiece, To Kill a Mockingbird.
Maycomb, Alabama. 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 MockingbirdGo Set a Watchman perfectly captures a young woman, and a world, in painful yet necessary transition out of the illusions of the past—a journey that can only be guided by one's own conscience.
Written in the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman imparts a fuller, richer understanding and appreciation of Harper Lee. Here is an unforgettable novel of wisdom, humanity, passion, humor, and effortless precision—a profoundly affecting work of art that is both wonderfully evocative of another era and relevant to our own times. It not only confirms the enduring brilliance of To Kill a Mockingbird, but also serves as its essential companion, adding depth, context, and new meaning to an American classic.

My thoughts: 
To Kill a Mockingbird (TKAM) is a classic book and most of us either read the novel or saw the movie as a kid, or both.   We all loved Scout, Jem, Dell and Atticus.  Sadly, we only see some of those characters in flashback in Go Set A Watchman.  
Before I read this book, I read the reviews on Good Reads.  There are a lot of disappointed or angry people because the characters we thought we knew in To Kill a Mockingbird aren't exactly the same.   To me this book is such a reflection on life.   Have you ever gone back to a place you use to live and while it looks the same, it seems different, smaller, and not the way you remember? That's kind of what it is like reading this book.  
There are things missing, characters missing, and the ones that are there have changed, some for the worse..  Again, I don't see this so much a lack of continuity between the two novels as  growth, lack of growth, and life beating people down.   Much has been made of Atticus not being the hero he was in TKAM.  The thing is, Atticus was such a paragon of right, Justice, and  wisdom in TKAM, he was almost too good to be true.  In this novel we see his flaws.  We basically find out that he isn't the paragon of virtue we thought we knew.  I don't see this transformation so much as a change in who Atticus was as a reflection of life mellowing or hardening a person's views.   Unlike Scout and many readers, I don't feel betrayed by Atticus.  
To me the only problem with Go Set a Watchman is that without TKAM, you probably wouldn't enjoy or care about this book.   The characters aren't as innocent because Jean Louise has grown up and suffered loss.  She moved to New York and is returning home to visit her family and boyfriend, a childhood friend who we don't see in TKAM.  From there the book is simply an exploration of how things change, people, places, life, and learning to accept it.  
I found the book an easy read and the exploration of race relations to be pretty honest, just as it was in the first book.  There are a few inconsistencies between the two books regarding the rape trial but you move past that fairly fast.   
There are things I don't like about this book and one exchange I still don't understand.  The entire chapter with Calpurnia made no sense to me.  Of all the characters that changed, I actually found Cal's the hardest to understand.   
I guess the thing I took away from reading the two novels back to back is that with time, everything changes and not always for the better.   I couldn't help but feel these books are relevant to today just as much as they were 55 years ago.  
Overall this is a worthy follow up on much beloved characters.  

Winner! Winner! 
Well my first give away is over and I learned a few things about marketing these things better next time but I want to announce the winner of the random drawing:  congratulations to Military Wife!
Thank you all who participated and I will be doing another give away soon so stay tuned and be ready to enter!  

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