Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee ~ Publication Day 7-14-15 #NYTimesBestSeller

Twenty-six-year-old Jean Louise Finch—“Scout”—returns home to Maycomb, Alabama 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 the late 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.

I have started a review of this book several times, erased everything only to begin again. I have such conflicting feelings about the story! Am I glad I read it? Absolutely.  The conflict for me in part was the inconsistencies between “To Kill a Mockingbird”, told by 6 year old Jean Louise Finch, A.K.A Scout and “Go Set a Watchman”, told by 26 year old Jean Louise Finch.  As Jean Louise flashes back to her childhood in this story, some of the details are completely different than originally told.

For example, the central plot in “To Kill a Mockingbird” surrounded the trial for Tom, a young black male accused of rape. Atticus defended Tom and although didn’t get him acquitted, seemed to make the townspeople doubt the real culprit.  It also gave Scout and her brother Jem an unwavering respect for their father and his ability to see a person for who they were, not the color of their skin. HOWEVER, as if my eyes deceived me while reading “Go Set a Watchman”, I couldn’t believe that the outcome of the trial was completely different. As Jean Louise flashes back to it, she remembers how her father did something never done before, got a black male on trial for rape, acquitted!  This was a HUGE discrepancy, altering so many outcomes of the story.

Jean Louise’s whole world comes crashing down on her when she returns home from NYC to visit her family in Alabama. Everything she believed about her family and friends seemed like a big fat lie. She began wondering if what she saw happening presently had always been happening but she chose to subconciously disbelieve it.  I don’t think I’ve ever been so disappointed in a character. I literally felt a knot in the pit of my stomach as Jean Louise realizes that the man she put on a pedestal and hailed a hero to everyone for her entire life, is a completely different person than she ever thought he was.

Writer Harper Lee was born on April 28, 1926, in Monroeville, Alabama. In 1959, she finished the manuscript for her Pulitzer Prize-winning bestseller To Kill a Mockingbird. Soon after, she helped fellow writer and friend Truman Capote compose an article for The New Yorker which would evolve into his nonfiction masterpiece, In Cold Blood. In July 2015, Lee published her second novel, Go Set a Watchman, which was written before To Kill a Mockingbird and portrays the later lives of the characters from her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel. Lee died on February 19, 2016, at the age of 89.

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