- Paperback: 288 pages
- Publisher: Harper Perennial Modern Classics; Reprint edition (May 3, 2016)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0062409867
- ISBN-13: 978-0062409867
- Product Dimensions: 0.7 x 5.3 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 3.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Customer Reviews: 14,287 customer ratings
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #8,723 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Go Set a Watchman: A Novel Paperback – May 3, 2016
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“Go Set a Watchman is such an important book, perhaps the most important novel on race to come out of the white South in decades… (New York Times Opinion Pages: Taking Note)
“Watchman is compelling in its timeliness.” (Washington Post)
“Go Set a Watchman provides valuable insight into the generous, complex mind of one of America’s most important authors.” (USA Today)
“Harper Lee’s second novel sheds more light on our world than its predecessor did.” (Time)
“[Go Set a Watchman] contains the familiar pleasures of Ms. Lee’s writing- the easy, drawling rhythms, the flashes of insouciant humor, the love of anecdote.” (Wall Street Journal)
“…the voice we came to know so well in To Kill a Mockingbird - funny, ornery, rulebreaking - is right here in Go Set a Watchman, too, as exasperating and captivating as ever.” (Chicago Tribune)
“Don’t let ‘Go Set a Watchman’ change the way you think about Atticus Finch…the hard truth is that a man such as Atticus, born barely a decade after Reconstruction to a family of Southern gentry, would have had a complicated and tortuous history with race.” (Los Angeles Times)
“A significant aspect of this novel is that it asks us to see Atticus now not merely as a hero, a god, but as a flesh-and-blood man with shortcomings and moral failing, enabling us to see ourselves for all our complexities and contradictions.” (Washington Post)
“The success of Go Set a Watchman... lies both in its depiction of Jean Louise reckoning with her father’s beliefs, and in the manner by which it integrates those beliefs into the Atticus we know.” (Time)
“Go Set a Watchman’s greatest asset may be its role in sparking frank discussion about America’s woeful track record when it comes to racial equality.” (San Francisco Chronicle)
From the Back Cover
“Go Set a Watchman is such an important book, perhaps the most important novel on race to come out of the white South in decades.”—Clay Risen, New York Times
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 Mockingbird, Go 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.
“Harper Lee’s second novel sheds more light on our world than its predecessor did.”—Time“Provides valuable insight into the generous, complex mind of one of America’s most important authors.”—USA Today
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Okay, now that we understand each other, how is 'Watchman'? It's...okay. There are critical differences that I won't go into in order not to spoil the plot. Here's what I can tell you (and I am assuming you are familiar with 'Mockingbird'): The time period is mid-50's. Scout is 26, lives in New York City, and returns to Maycomb for a two week visit. The book is told in a series of anecdotes in the present day and in flashbacks to Scout's childhood. Scout is called by her proper name, Jean Louise, for the majority of the book. Dill is overseas and is only seen in a few flashbacks. Jem is also not on the present scene, although he figures more significantly in flashbacks. Miss Maudie is mentioned but doesn't play a major role. There is no mention whatsoever of any of the Radleys. A principal "new" figure is Hank Clinton, an orphan of Jem's age that was taken under Atticus' wing, became a lawyer and Atticus' partner, and is determined to marry Jean Louise and have her return to Maycomb.
What's happening in Maycomb is that the NAACP is becoming prominent, and 'the Negroes' are demanding civil rights following the US Supreme Court's decision to integrate public schools. Jean Louise is disgusted to learn of Maycomb's opposition to these developments and is horrified by a town council meeting attended by Hank and Atticus where blatant racism, intolerance, stereotypes and segregation are advanced. She dismisses Hank as a would-be fiancé. Her image of Atticus, the hero of 'Mockingbird' and a universal symbol of justice, tolerance and equality, is shattered. Having based her own value system on Atticus, Jean Louise is infuriated and feels she is identity-less as a result of this surprising betrayal.
These developments would be startling and extremely disappointing if 'Watchman' was in fact a sequel to 'Mockingbird'. Everyone can breathe a sigh of relief because Lee ultimately chose to portray Atticus in the manner that she did. Reading the earlier version is interesting to see how she came around to the end result. In this respect, 'Watchman' is important as a resource to show countervailing concerns at play when Lee was writing, and is good enough cause to read it. (As a side note, there are striking comparisons to some of the more moderate Maycomb council theories and those of modern-day Confederate flag supporters. Take note, English Lit teachers!)
Does the book stand on its own? In a word, no. It's boring. 'Mockingbird' is charming and funny, the characters are endearing, there's a fair amount of action, the dialogue is brilliant. Not the case in the earlier draft. There is relatively little action. For the most part, the "action" takes place in the flashbacks, none of which are even close to the stories in the eventual classic. The book is not funny. Jean Louise is appealing but she's by no means the adorable, irreverent Scout. Hank Clinton is a caricature that was wisely deleted. Atticus is an old, decrepit shadow of himself whose opinions will upset most readers. Dill is AWOL, the Radley angle is sorely missed. Aunt Alexandra and Uncle Jack are overly present but are supremely tedious. A major difference between this draft and the later one is that pages and pages are given over to speeches. Practically all the dialogue is delivered from a pulpit or a soap box. Lee had a lot to say, and eventually got it right, but in this version the overlong speeches get boring, quickly. There is some great writing, and many passages from the draft made it into the final cut. Lee obviously benefitted from some intelligent and caring editors as she finished the novel.
To Kill a Mockingbird is an all-time classic that everyone should read. Go Set A Watchman is an interesting tool that helps show how Lee developed the characters, setting, storyline and message of the novel. It is valuable in that respect, and is worth reading, but does not hold its own as an independent novel, because that's not what it is.
Her father taught her that everybody should be treated equally under the law. Jean Louise grew up believing that prejudice was wrong, plain and simple. When she was ten, her father fiercely defended a black man accused of raping a white woman, in spite of being threatened by the local KKK. To her, Atticus Finch was the best man she ever knew....
And now she hears him talking about the NAACP coming down to Alabama to "stir up trouble". For example, the NAACP is actually demanding Negroes be included in juries when a Negro is on trial for committing a crime against a white person. This organization is stirring up unrest and resentment among the colored folks. One has to be very careful these days with what is said in front of one's maids and field hands...
When Jean Louise hears her father talking this way, she is devastated. This is not the Atticus Finch that Jean Louise grew up knowing. Nor is it the character that readers of TKAM knew. Turns out, this literary hero has feet of clay.
It felt uncomfortable reading this book in places. I didn't like my long held beliefs in Atticus Finch to be undermined. (I first read TKAM in high school, fifty years ago!). But upon reflection, I do realize he was very paternal in his treatment of blacks. And, in truth, "Go Set a Watchman" most likely reflected what was really going on in the south in the 1950s. And sometimes we need to be reminded of what was, without wearing rose-colored glasses.
In "To Kill a Mockingbird", the greatest thing Atticus Finch did was to defend an innocent black man. In "To Set a Watchman", the greatest thing he ever did was raise Jean Louise to be the woman she grew up to be.
After much contemplation, and taking into account the year this book was written, I'm giving it 5 stars.
Top international reviews
The book "starts" half way through; its main themes are hidden until then. I found myself ploughing through reams of filler/scene-setting hoping that something would happen. Perhaps I am a spoilt modern reader, but this was published in 2015.
Eventually things pick up, and almost make up for the dull opening 50% (Kindle). As a middle/young adult reader I found it compelling and evocative, with many hot contemporary themes packed in there – not surprising in an old setting in that part of the world. Despite that, this was a chore to read and I would have preferred an abridged version. The first half of the book, and many characters and anecdotes could be omitted. It's hard as a reader to know what's safe to skip.
One positive I've taken from it being so frustrating is that's made it thought provoking, trying to get mileage out of good things. I've been thinking about it for longer than usual after putting it down. There are a number of hot themes packed into the interesting pages. Not only race. I just wish it'd been shorter. It would have been perfect for the Penguin Modern Classics series. If they edited it.
Nothing much happens in the story but it is none the less a fascinating read with believable characters, especially wonderful outspoken Uncle Jack. I would recommend this book to anyone who has tired of chick lit and wants to read something really absorbing.
Certainly "Go Set A Watchman" is not an easy read, although I found it a compelling one. It amounts to an emotional coming of age. Jean Louise Finch returns to her birthplace, Maycombe in Alabama from New York where she now lives. She discovers that the main person in her life, her father Atticus, whom she had idolised has views on black people that she now finds repugnant. She now finds the whole atmosphere of Maycombe parochial, small minded and hypocritical and she is ready to explode.
Some critics seem to feel that the novel ruins the image that they had felt the characters possessed in "To Kill A Mockingbird". I feel that the whereas the 1930's are viewed from the standpoint of a child, in black and white, the 1950's are viewed from the point of view of a woman of 26 in a far more nuanced way. I enjoyed the stream of consciousness mode in which Jean Louise's thoughts are written although it makes the novel quite hard to read at times. I was left wondering what a third novel set in 1965 might have told us about the characters in Maycombe. I certainly feel that this novel is a good read and I am glad that it was published, belatedly.
It seemed split into 2. A fairly dull and slow set of recollections from the returning Scout Finch, who now lives in New York. Then, in the second half, I felt I was being preached at by a set of characters and the rant from Scout just seemed to come from nowhere and the suggested reason just didn't ring true.
I really wanted to like this book, having enjoyed its predecessor so much, but I wasn't even close.
I did hear of the negative reports on this book.But read it anyway with an open mind. IN the first pages you read that Jem has passed away in the interim 20 years and that is said but semi autobiographical because you realise in parallel that Harper Lee lost her own brother
I wonder and the book does not really answer the question of why Atticus changed from the guy who stood up for the accused black man to the bigot that we read In Go set a watchman. Jean Louise world came crashing down when she saw her father in a meeting supporting the concerns about the influx of negros.
But you do get a flavour of what happened to her mother who we never met in TKAM and to her brother
I kept on wondering what happened to the people who were mentioned in TKAM and they were mostly not mentioned in the new book. Dill was mentioned and that he had moved away, but what about Mayella who made the accusation 20 years ago - Memories are long in Maycombe county so it must not have been forgotten surely. It is not mentioned about what happened to her family, Where they ostracised, because of a false accusation. What about Boo Radley who featured. and others They had vanished from the new book and It left you with more questions and wonderings that have not been answered.
I may well have to read it a number of times as I did the first book to get a real feel for the book and the way it left
I do say it looks like the Mocking bird has been killed with the publishing of this book
Those who have vigorously denounced this as a portrayal of Atticus as a bigot and racist lack the imagination to realise that had they been born into the same community at the same period of history they may well have held views far to the right of Atticus.
Although an enjoyable read, there are sections of the book which are long winded and in need of editing. After reading this novel I went straight on to reading To Kill a Mockingbird and it was evident what a masterpiece the latter is. This book does not stand comparison but is nevertheless a really interesting read and a valuable insight into the origins of To Kill a Mockingbird.
Neatly written and intimately entwined with To Kill a Mockingbird this book speaks further about race in the South and the resonance of a heritage that goes beyond the Civil War to Anglo-Protestant archetypes. It is gently written and provides an apologia, for why the south is like it is. It couldn't be more timely with recent moves to ban the Confederate flag and crimes of hate. Disapprove of the South if you like but if you want to understand the South then read on.
I found "Watchman" tedious in places and I certainly had to push myself to keep reading. I couldn't recognise the "Scout" or the "Atticus" I knew which I found deeply disappointing. But now with some hindsight perhaps that is the message in this novel. But how odd that "Watchman" was written first!
I enjoyed the novel. Chapter 9 was a wonderful character sketch of Atticus. I for one liked to see the innocent Scout as an adult, and this loss of innocence was a key point in the novel.
At first, I thought it was going to be good. Scout was in fine fettle, there was a love interest and a black man to defend. However, I began to get impatient and then irritated by the wait for something to actually happen. I won't spoil the "plot" for would-be readers but suffice to say that it isn't brilliantly plotted, and I did expect a bit of brilliance, coming from the same pen as Mockingbird.
Another irritation was the killing-off of Jem (this is not a spoiler as it is revealed very quickly). I think he would have added a dimension to the novel that it lacked. Atticus wasn't right, either. I didn't want to see him as an old man struggling with movement but it was more his character that didn't resonate. He was largely unrecognisable from the wise, if alternative, parent we knew. Jack was a disaster, too.
I guess you could argue that, as it was allegedly written before Mockingbird, she didn't get them wrong - just different. But it is hard to detach oneself from it all, especially as the marketing (even on the front cover!) screams Mockingbird.
I doubt this book would have been published (in fact, it wasn't was it?) without Mockingbird's success. I also regret that Harper Lee did not write that sequel but maybe it WAS a wise decision not to.
We may never know whether she actually wrote Mockingbird or whether, as has been suggested, her then-friend Truman Capote wrote it for her. On the evidence of this, I think her may well have had at least a hand in guiding the plot.