Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Review: 'Go Set A Watchman' by Harper Lee

So I've just finished reading this book and these were my thoughts:

As a lover of 'To Kill A Mockingbird' it is very difficult for me to express my views on this book. At the beginning, I so was outraged to find some of the characters whom I was so in love with from TKAM were completely different people or no longer existed altogether I immediately informed everyone I knew who had read TKAM not to purchase this book because it ruined the much-loved classic. However, despite my outrage I couldn't put this book down. In some ways I think that a person who has not read TKAM will hold the most appreciation for this book reading it as a separate tale and not as an extension of the classic. But then I realised that perhaps only a person who has read TKAM can fully appreciate what this book represents - the loss of young Scout's innocence. I think by having read and loved TKAM I felt the heartbreak of this story so much more than anyone who had not read TKAM would have. 

'Go Set A Watchman' picks up from the events of 'To Kill A Mockingbird' almost two decades after the events of the first book. (However, it's important to note that it is believed that Harper Lee wrote 'Go Set a Watchman' first and was rejected by publishers who wanted the story told from the perspective of a child - for this reason there are some small inconsistencies in the plot that do not match up with TKAM which I found more irritating than is probably necessary). Jean Louise Finch leaves her home in New York to visit the small town she grew up in and visit her family. At the age of 26 she learns things about the people she grew up with and feels her world turn upside down due to her discoveries. 

The writing style was beautiful, just like in TKAM, the descriptions of the physically beautiful town of Maycomb were so picturesque I could form the image in my mind and almost feel the sun scorching my own head. The way it is written is also beautifully simplistic and because of this I was able to fly through it, despite my uncertainty about the plot - this I believe is a bonus because I think even if you are shocked or angry about the way the story is going after TKAM you can get through it quickly and just see what happens even if you aren't particularly happy by the end of it. 

I was very upset by the characters and the changes that had been made to them since TKAM. Jem, Dill and Boo Radley (who wasn't mentioned once), were some of my favourites from TKAM and were completely absent for various reasons. Atticus Finch, one of my favourite fictional characters of all time was no longer the strong man I knew from the classic but a bitter old man whose morals and values were completely different to what they were in TKAM - his views in this book make his good deeds and bravery in TKAM false and evil. Jean Louise (Scout), although 26 was completely childish, she was more childish as an adult than she was as a 6 year old! Sometimes she was absolutely intolerable and I found myself rolling my eyes. Perhaps the most heartbreaking character change (for me, personally), was that of Calpurnia - in TKAM she was loveable and funny and this vivacious character who filled every page with her strength and yet in GSAW she became bitter and mean and plain weak. 

Although I'm happy I read this book I do feel like in some ways TKAM has been ruined for me. I don't know if this was the point intended by the author, because in some ways we lose our idealistic hopeful innocence about the tale just as Scout does. I think the main issue for me as a reader was that I expected 'Go Set a Watchman' to be a continuation of 'To Kill a Mockingbird' in such a way that it would give me hope and the characters would be exactly as they were. The important thing to know when going into this book is that this was written before TKAM and for that reason this is what the characters we love were first intended to be like - not everything is the same. 


This review was posted on my Goodreads page, if you want follow me on there too!

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