Friday, 17 July 2015

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

Maycomb, Alabama. Twenty six year old Jean Louise Finch (Scout) returns home from New York City to visit her ageing 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.

Since this book was published earlier this week there have been thousands of reviews written. I have deliberately avoided reading any of them so as not to affect my own judgement of this book but short of locking myself in a darkened room without any form of communication from the outside world it has been impossible not to have got the gist of the fact that the vast majority of these reviews have been negative.

Perhaps it is my contrary personality but I really wanted to like this book. Like many others I am a huge fan of To Kill a Mockingbird which I first read aged about thirteen and have reread many times since.

Harper Lee is a great writer as evidenced in To Kill a Mockingbird so it was hard for me to even begin to equate this sequel with the skill she showed in her first and only other book. My biggest disappointment was in the way she portrayed Jean Louise (aka Scout). Gone is the fiery young Scout who we all know and love and in walks Jean Louise who I think the author intended to portray as an opinionated and angry young woman. However, rather than possess the associated attributes of this persona Jean Louise comes over more as a moaning Minnie and quite frankly, I found her character rather tedious.

What I did like in this book were the flashbacks to Jean Louise's childhood. Here I glimpsed the characters and writer who exerted so much influence over me when I was in my teens.

Written in the 1950's and not published until 2016 does this book alter the way I have felt about To Kill a Mockingbird? Not one bit. It is vastly superior to this sequel and I have been a little in love with Atticus Finch for too many decades for that to change now.

ISBN:  9781785150289

Publisher: William Heinemann

Price: £18.99

About the Author: 

Harper Lee ws born in 1926 in Monroeville, Alabama. She is the author of the acclaimed To Kill a Mockingbirdand has been awarded the Pulitzer Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and numerous other literary awards and honours.

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