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  • Karina Sokulski

Review: "Go Set A Watchman" by Harper Lee


When I first bought my copy of Go Set A Watchman I had already read dozens of discussions over the internet concearning the controversial discovery of Harper Lee's manuscript, followed by even more discussions of how fans of Harper Lee predicted that the sequel would not be as good as the original. I think we can all agree that it would be impossible for any story (even written by Harper Lee herself) to match up to the legendary To Kill A Mockingbird. Now that being said, although I do not agree with the way the manuscript came about being published, I purchased a copy for the sole reason of supporting Harper Lee as an author I deeply respect. So controversy or not, I will avoid spoilers and review my take on the book.

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. Featuring many of the iconic characters from To Kill a Mockingbird, Go Set A Watchman perfactly captures a young woman, and a world, in a painful yet necessary transition out of the illusions of the past--a journey that can be guided only by one's conscience.

Admittedly I have mixed emotions about this sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird mainly because of how the story progresses. My favorite aspect of this story is the focus on Scout coming into her own as a woman and traversing her sexuality. There's literally a scene where wearing trousers becomes an issue among her family while she had no problems while living in New York. There are moments in the story that are wonderful and heartbreaking but seem to occur after some relatively slow narrative. This book in comparison to the other (so far) on my summer reading list took me a bit longer to read for this reason. This is not a criticism towards Harper Lee's writing persay, as this manuscript was originally meant to not be published, but I still felt that the story dragged from wonderful moment to wonderful moment.

I would go as far to say that the themes of this story, ranging from sexuality to duty, change and race, are presented as well as they were in Lee's first book. Structually this story I feel is almost identical to the last, even if it may not stand up to Lee's earlier work. This story ends with a bit of a shock (in a good way) and a twenty-six-year-old woman who does her child predecessor justice. Regardless of the controversey surrounding the publishing of this story and its being second best to its predecessor, I would say this book is still worth reading if not for the sole reason of supporting Harper Lee's writing alone.

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