Monday, August 24, 2015

Go Set a Watchman

Go Set A Watchman
Harper Lee
Harper Collins Publishers
New York, New York
ISBN: 978-0-06-240985-0
$ 27.99
280 pages

How does anyone write a sequel to a legend?  To Kill a Mockingbird won the Pulitzer Prize, the Presidential Medal of Freedom and numerous other literary awards.  So how do you write anything else?

To Kill a Mockingbird awoke the world to the truth the everyone in the South knew existed, but no one ever had put into words.

Go Set a Watchman continues the story with Scout returning to her home for a two-week vacation.    Now she is twenty-six.   How has she changed since she was eight?  Does she still wear overalls?

To be fair to all the hype and criticism of this book, I decided to reread To Kill a Mockingbird.   It is amazing how much I enjoyed the book since reading it back in junior high.   I also question how much I probably did not understand in the book from a teenager's perspective. I strongly felt I needed to read two books to see if I also questioned whether Harper Lee actually wrote both books.

What is disturbing is what Go Set a Watchman is missing.   Very little is given as to Scout's life in New York City.  Doesn't the reader want to know how she lives there, how she works, who are her friends, and many other questions?

Also To Kill a Mockingbird obviously went through a long editing process.   Few books today are given that attention which can turn a book into greatness.

The story continues while missing some major characters from the first book.  It takes a while to reveal why they are not in the story.  I really missed these supporting characters and unfortunately no one replaced them.  Harper Lee loved her characters in the first book.  In this one, the love is not there.

Go Set a Watchman has flashbacks of incidents that happened supposedly in Mockingbird
and during Scout's other school experiences.  This feels like snippets just to fill the space.  The relevance to the story is not a continual line but jumping between the present and the past. These flashbacks greatly enrich Go Set a Watchman.  The problem is that these memories although significant change the tempo in reading due to their significance.

The sequel has the same number of pages but close to half the words.  Larger print was utilized to make the book as a physical duplicate of the first book.  

The book feels as if someone combined possible story events into this book without the love of the characters.   However, the does change in the last third of the book.  When Uncle Jack is explaining the Civil War to Scout, there is no question in my mind that this voice is Harper Lee.  The frankness, truthfulness, and awareness of the Southern culture changes dramatically in this section.  This is someone who truly understands the South.

As a mixed-child with a mother from the South and a Yankee father, I loved her vision of the South.
The book was worth reading just for those five pages.   That is the exquisite writing I expect from Harper Lee.

Would I buy the book again? No.  Will I buy any future finds of Harper Lee's?  Probably not.

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