It’s not often that I can sit back and devour a book but yesterday, I did exactly that with Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman. When this book was announced earlier this year, I immediately pre-ordered it from Amazon and have been waiting on it to arrive anxiously. I loved Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird and I couldn’t wait to dig into Go Set A Watchman. And I have to say, I was not disappointed.
Over the past few weeks there has been quite a bit of controversy over this book after it was revealed that Atticus Finch is portrayed as a racist. Atticus, for many, has come to represent that epitome of humility, equality, and respect. In To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus stood up for what was right, taught his children valuable lessons about people and race, and became one of the most beloved characters of American literature. So for many, Atticus as a racist was a hard pill to swallow. Lee absolutely does portray Atticus with racist characteristics in Go Set a Watchman and that was hard for me to read at certain points in the book. However, I think it is a dose of reality. To Kill a Mockingbird is very much a story about Scout’s childhood and a child views her father very differently from the way an adult would. This novel is set two decades after the events in To Kill a Mockingbird so of course Scout has grown up and now sees things differently. She sees Atticus differently and notices things about him that she probably wouldn’t have noticed as a child. Atticus still wants to do what is right but I think Scout is just able to finally see a different side of him as an adult. I still found Atticus respectable even if I didn’t always agree with everything he said. Also, just like many readers, Scout also has a lot of trouble rectifying the father she once knew with the new things she finds out about Atticus in this novel. Scout’s struggle with this is one of the main plot points of the entire novel.
What I think is most poignant about this novel is that it very much pertains to all that has been in the news lately. The difference between Atticus and Scout in this novel really highlights the conversations that are still taking place in our country. The conversations between Atticus and Scout are still very relevant. I think Scout’s plight in this novel is reminiscent of what many people of my generation are dealing with right now. With all the talk about race in our country right now, I think many younger people are seeing elders that they always respected suddenly showing a very racist side. Sometimes it is hard to grasp that the people you respect the most are not on board with what you think they should believe. This book very much seems to me a big dose of truth and reality.
As far as writing, I really enjoyed the writing style. Lee did a fantastic job. There were some spots that were clearly not her best writing, however, that is something I could overlook considering that Lee wrote this years ago without the intention to publish it. She supposedly requested that it finally be published without any changes or input from an editor and I think that has to be considered when judging her writing.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It was hard at times to read, especially if you are attached to the Atticus everyone knows from To Kill a Mockingbird like I am. However, it is well-written for the most part and I believe it is a poignant and timely statement about racial relations in the U.S. I gave it a four out of five stores and would definitely recommend it.