Book Review

Go Set a Watchman


Go Set a Watchman, Harper Lee’s newly discovered piece, is a treat. It started so slowly that I was fearful those critics who said it should never have been published were right. Once past my expectation that it would be another courthouse drama, aka To Kill A Mockingbird, I was completely sucked in. This new book is a period piece that focuses on a young woman’s relationship with her father – a young woman who has idolized her father so thoroughly that she is unable to form an identity separate from his.  Go Set A Watchman describes her very necessary, very healthy separation from him.

Early critics have been fixated on the issue of Atticus being racist. I saw him more as a product of time and place and, even more important, as a man who encouraged his daughter to disagree with him and to fight for her beliefs. The climactic discussions between Jean Louise and Atticus, and then between Jean Louise and her Uncle Jack, are remarkable. They are also timely, given recent issues with the Confederate flag.

I can’t imagine that those who actually do read this book cover-to-cover will find that it tarnishes To Kill A Mockingbird. In its own way, To Set A Watchman is every bit as brilliant.

BTW, and I’m sorry, but I have to make this analogy, I watched the first episode of “I Am Cait” last night. It was very touching at times and certainly convinced me that Caitlyn Jenner has wanted to be female since childhood. Was it riveting TV? Would it have ever seen the light of day without the Kardashian connection? Perhaps not.

Likewise, would Go Set A Watchman have ever been published without the To Kill A Mockingbird connection? Perhaps not. Like “I Am Cait,” though, there is enough to appreciate in it – more for some people, less for others – to warrant its showing. Lord knows, both are more substantial than some of the fare out there.


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