Go Set a Watchman is a novel by Harper Lee, the author of the Pulitzer prize-winning To Kill a Mockingbird. I’d say that Mockingbird is the best book I’ve ever read and Atticus Finch is a moral compass of the world or should I say he used to be? The new book was so vigorously discussed in mass media due to several facts: it’s unexpected and controversial discovery and the fact that Atticus Finch has evolved into a small-town biggot. So let’s go back to the start.
The manuscript for the novel was considered lost, but during the appraisal of Lee’s assets in 2011 it was found in a safe deposit box in her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama. The controversy is that some publications find the timing very suspicious, citing Lee’s declining condition and National Public Radio was raising questions about whether she was being taken advantage of in her old age. Even some investigations were launched on a suspicion of elder abuse, but they proved that the claims were ungrounded.
In 1957 Ms. Lee originally submitted the manuscript of Watchman to her editor who really loved Jean Louise’s flashbacks to childhood and therefore asked to rewrite the book from the viewpoint of a young child – Scout. This is the reason why it is advised to view the novel not as a prequel/sequel but as an early draft, an “academic insight” into Harper Lee’s development as an author, rather than as a “nice summer novel”.
There was so much hype about the book and it is worth mentioning that Watchman set one-day sales record for Barnes&Noble, the largest U.S. bookstore chain, for adult fiction by number of units sold.
The book’s most striking and frustrating aspect is the difference in Atticus Finch’s personality. In Mockingbird he is the symbol of decency and justice, a man the whole world loves and respects, whereas in Watchman he is a southern racist reading pamphlets on “The Black Plague”. It still came as a surprise to me that Brilliant Books, Michigan announced that they intended to refund the purchase price of Go Set a Watchman to disappointed readers. Interested? You can find more information about it in a Guardian article – US bookshop offering refunds for Go Set a Watchman.
I am a big fan of To Kill a Mockingbird, so I decided to read the novel myself and to make up my own opinion on the book. And I strongly advise you to do the same thing, notwithstanding the harsh critics on the book. Here is an awesome link to an exclusive interactive extract, narrated by Reese Witherspoon – Go Set a Watchman – Chapter 1, enjoy!
Hope to hear your opinion on the novel!
Read, lead, succeed!