Book Discussion Series: Go Set a Watchman

Before I begin with a Book Discussion about Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee, I must tell you that I absolutely love To Kill a Mockingbird. Though I often tell people I could no sooner pick a favorite star in the sky as I could a favorite book, and it is true, if pressed to pick a favorite, I say To Kill a Mockingbird. This is due to the fact that not only do I love the story, I love Atticus Finch, and his movie counterpart actor, Gregory Peck. It isn’t often that I love a book and the movie. To Kill a Mockingbird is unique in this way for me.

Because I have such a deep affection for To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch, and really Harper Lee as the author, I really wanted to love Go Set a Watchman. I read a few reviews after the novel’s release earlier this year prior to reading the book. Though they were mostly negative, I was still optimistic that I would feel differently.

I tell you all this for one simple reason. As much as I would like to say I am objective in my discussion of this book, I cannot. My affection for Harper Lee’s classic novel both clouded my judgement positively and negatively. Positively because I wanted so much to love this found treasure from a beloved author, but negatively because there is no way it could live up to my expectations no matter how wonderful the story might be.

It also means you will have to read the novel for yourself. You can purchase the book with the link below to help support this blog.

Before I read the novel, I wrote down a few questions. These assume you previously read To Kill a Mockingbird.

  • Some call this story a prequel to To Kill a Mockingbird. Is it?
  • How is it different from To Kill a Mockingbird?
  • Is Jean-Louise (Scout) portrayed consistently with what we know about her from her childhood?
  • Why the title, Go Set a Watchman?
  • Does it deserve the bad reviews or are we so enchanted with To Kill a Mockingbird that it suffers in comparison?

As you might have guessed by now, I did not love Go Set a Watchman. I say this with a heavy heart. I was disappointed in the story for many reasons. I was disappointed in the viewpoints expressed by some of my most beloved characters. I was disappointed in the some of the writing. I was disappointed in the inconsistencies I read. I can forgive an inconsistency or two since I know the context of the history of the manuscript. Go Set a Watchman was written prior to To Kill a Mockingbird, but not accepted by publishers. The manuscript was found in 2014 after previously thought lost.

I also found some value. We learn more about Jem and Scout beyond that one fateful summer we know so well. It was fun to read about some other moments in their history. On a deeper level, there is one scene, in particular, that makes one think about the motives of a person and how a community dictates our actions. It goes beyond the obvious societal issues.

Since I wanted to love it so much, it pains me to say I did not, but I can take some solace in the thought that hopefully you will still read it to find the hidden nuggets of value. Even if you do not find the same value as I, there is something to be said of the value of this novel as part of the history of an author that most do not know well, if at all.

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