Review: Go Set a Watchman

gosetawatchmanGo Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
Catalog record  |  Goodreads reviews

Maycomb, Alabama. Twenty-six-year-old Jean Louise Finch–“Scout”–returns home 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.

Watchman is not the classic that Mockingbird is. It’s not as polished, not as humorous — simply not as good. However, both books are products of their time, and both are valuable for that very reason.

As a child in Mockingbird, Scout put Atticus up on a pedestal. We, the readers, received a skewed-to-perfection image of the man, which is exactly what a child such as Scout would have of her father.

Then Scout grows up. In Watchman, she comes home and realizes Atticus is not the man she remembers — just as we the readers see a more complete picture of him.

Readers are outraged because Atticus is different — no, he’s simply human. He’s not a paragon of virtue — none of our parents are, even though we may see them that way through young eyes. Many of us read Mockingbird as young people; many of us are reading Watchman as adults. As an adult, Jean-Louise wishes her father could still be the perfect model of righteousness, the same thing Mockingbird was to readers. And we, as readers, wish that Watchman could be that as well, rather than the tarnished relic of a hero that Atticus becomes.

– Review by Marleah

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