Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

As you probably know, through the years since the publication of Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird, many readerswatchman have wondered why such an outstanding writer only wrote one book.  As it turned out, she wrote this novel, her first book, in the 1950s, and its recent publication, so many years later, was a major event.

If you’ve never read To Kill a Mockingbird, you’ve missed a treat – and I highly recommend your adding it to your reading list!  In my opinion, Go Set a Watchman is also well worth reading.

This novel, set in a fictional Alabama town in the 1950s, includes the shocking portrayal of Atticus Finch, the hero of To Kill a Mockingbird and one of the most highly regarded characters in literature, as a racist.  Very understandably, some readers will choose to avoid the book for this reason.  In addition, parts of it are boring and are far from being  Harper Lee’s best work.

However, I was interested in finding out what happened to Scout, the child in To Kill a Mockingbird, after she became an adult going by her real name, Jean Louise – and also about the later lives of her family members.  This novel, with its complex view of familiar characters, provides much food for thought.  It seems to me that a major theme of the novel has to do with conflicts caused by differing views on important issues.  Although the issues may be different, such situations are as current as the most recent family gatherings!

I thoroughly enjoyed the delightful flashbacks to Scout’s childhood and teens.  Since I was a teenager in the 1950s – like Scout, I grew up in a small Southern town – I found it fascinating to compare the fictional Maycomb to the world that I experienced in those days. Younger readers may gain insights into the experiences of their parents and grandparents at that time, and people interested in civil rights history will read views held by some Southerners about sixty years ago.

I’m happy about the publication of this novel and glad that I read it.

(Helen Snow, retired from Information Services)

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