Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Go Set a Watchman

by Harper Lee
274 pgs

When Go Set a Watchman was released a couple of weeks ago, I knew it was going to be a literary firestorm. Months before it was released its provenance was being called into question, and its publisher was being criticized for its decision to publish it. There was no way the book could be a failure, and at the same time, there was no way the book could be a success. After all, To Kill a Mockingbird is such a timeless classic, and it's one that everyone has read. So who isn't going to read GSaW at some point? But at the same time, GSaW will never be considered on its own merits alone. It will always be discussed, critiqued, and compared to it's predecessor--or successor, depending on which way you choose to look at it.

The book takes place twenty-or-so years after the events of TKaM when Jean Louis (Scout) returns home to Maycomb, Alabama, after having moved away to New York years earlier. Shortly after she returns, she finds a pamphlet titled "The Black Plague" among her father's papers and learns that Atticus, as a member of the Citizen's Counsel, is actively working to oppose integration in Maycomb. It's a discovery into her father's life and beliefs that shakes her to her core. How could the man whose character Jean Louis had always considered to be without fault be a part of something that she felt so morally opposed to?

Go Set a Watchman is a book that deserves to be considered on its own merits. It's well-written and shows how those who oppose equality for all races are able to justify and rationalize their beliefs without considering them racist. Unfortunately, what most people who read the book are going to get hung up on is the fact that it's Atticus Finch who has those beliefs. The book takes a character that has been placed up on a literary pillar for the past 55 years and sheds a whole new light on him, one that is sure to bother most of the book's readers.

★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

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