Go Set a Watchman

Go Set a Watchman - Harper Lee

Jean Louise "Scout" Finch lives in New York City, but regularly visits her father, Atticus, in her hometown of Maycomb, Alabama. However, this time around, Jean Louise realizes some hard truths about her home, family, and the people of her town, and she is forced to rethink everything she knows.


If you're looking for the sequel for To Kill a Mockingbird, you'll be disappointed. Even though this book is marketed as the sequel, it is impossible for the two stories to be set in the same universe. There are multiple inconsistencies between the two, the biggest being the outcome of the big trial in To Kill a Mockingbird. Even without the inconsistencies, it would be a poor sequel. A character who didn't exist in the first is introduced here as a close childhood friend of Jean Louise's who is her current love interest. Jem is mentioned as having died years ago in a throwaway line in the first chapter. Dill is casually mentioned as being somewhere in Italy. And there is no mention whatsoever of Boo Radley.


Of course, this book was never intended as a sequel. It's the first draft of To Kill a Mockingbird. With Go Set a Watchman, you get to see how the characters were initially conceived and what the story was originally going to be. It's an amazing example of the difference a good editor can make. I'm actually really impressed with her editor for seeing the kernels of something great in this book and encouraging her to focus on Jean Louise's childhood. It being such a great example of the power of editing is the only reason I gave this two stars rather than one.


Even taking the story on its own and ignoring its relationship with To Kill a Mockingbird, it just wasn't that great. It meanders along and goes off on tangents that are uninteresting and don't add much to the story. Large chunks could have been removed from the story without really changing it. The point of Go Set a Watchman took forever to appear, and then the book ended very shortly after. I'm actually surprised the ultimate point took so long in arriving because anytime the book wanted to say something, it did so without any subtlety, often repeating itself just to make sure you got it.


Jean Louise was not a fun character to follow. I found her to be hypocritical and self-centered to the point where it made her appear incredibly stupid. And she's pretty racist too, despite the book's insistence that she's not. Of course everyone's very racist here, and I do understand that this has to do with the time it was written and set in.


I can't say reading this was an enjoyable experience. It did, however, make me incredibly curious about what a lot of other books looked like in their first drafts. I have an even greater appreciation of editors than I already did.