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Go Set a Watchman - Harper Lee Review

She looked a Maycomb, and her throat tightened: Maycomb was looking back at her. Go away, the old buildings said. There is no place for you here. You are not wanted, we have secrets

Complex, confusing, and messy…

Title: Go Set a Watchman

Author: Harper Lee

Genre: Drama

Published: 14th July 2015

Publisher: William Heinemann

ISBN: 9781785150289


cover art: bird on a branch orange backgroundRemember sitting in a classroom, looking longingly out to the playing fields, counting down the seconds till break time, while your teacher tells you to read and dissect a novel, pull it apart, underline key points and jot down notes in the margin? You instantly disliked that story, you wanted to be anywhere but in that classroom being instructed to read, the words jumbling about on the pages in front of you. For me, at school that story was ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, so ‘Go Set a Watchman’ had a lot to live up to.

Put simply, ‘Go Set a Watchman’ is the prequel to Harper Lee’s most famous offering. However, I would say it is the rough, unedited, version before a rewrite that gave us ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’.  It sets out on a mission to investigate complex relationships between races, communities and families, throwing everything we believe to be true into disarray. Youngster, Scout Finch, our main character, is now a twenty-something woman visiting her home town during a break from her new home in New York.

I found the story confusing, messy and often ’jumpy’.  I wish I could come up with a better adjective, but that’s exactly what it is. It flits around from past to present, recounting experiences from Scout Finch’s past, and intertwines storylines from the original book. I struggled to keep up with events and emotions, feeling thrown around, and often having to re-read sections. ‘Go Set a Watchman’ changes everything I ever learnt and took from ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, as we learn Scout’s father, Atticus Finch, isn’t the wholesome, strong willed character perceived from the original tale.

I’ve been quite negative, but there are some nice touches. We learn more about the Finch family. There are clever moments as we see Scout’s recollection of her youth, an awkward Tom Boy, almost against her will, her hormones throwing whatever they can at her in an assault to force her to become a young woman.

I just don’t think we need this story. It waters down Harper Lee’s original and confuses an already complex tale. Again, I was already sceptical about this book before I read it, but it’s not my cup of tea. But if you DID put ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ on a pedestal, you’ll only be disappointed.

Other books by Harper Lee – ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’

Laura's rating:

1 star rating pink

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