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Go Set a Watchman: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, Jul 14 2015
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“Go Set a Watchman is such an important book, perhaps the most important novel on race to come out of the white South in decades… (New York Times Opinion Pages: Taking Note)^“Watchman is compelling in its timeliness.” (Washington Post)^“Go Set a Watchman provides valuable insight into the generous, complex mind of one of America’s most important authors.” (USA Today)^“Harper Lee’s second novel sheds more light on our world than its predecessor did.” (Time)^“[Go Set a Watchman] contains the familiar pleasures of Ms. Lee’s writing- the easy, drawling rhythms, the flashes of insouciant humor, the love of anecdote.” (Wall Street Journal)^“…the voice we came to know so well in To Kill a Mockingbird - funny, ornery, rulebreaking - is right here in Go Set a Watchman, too, as exasperating and captivating as ever.” (Chicago Tribune)^“Don’t let ‘Go Set a Watchman’ change the way you think about Atticus Finch…the hard truth is that a man such as Atticus, born barely a decade after Reconstruction to a family of Southern gentry, would have had a complicated and tortuous history with race.” (Los Angeles Times)^“A significant aspect of this novel is that it asks us to see Atticus now not merely as a hero, a god, but as a flesh-and-blood man with shortcomings and moral failing, enabling us to see ourselves for all our complexities and contradictions.” (Washington Post)^“The success of Go Set a Watchman... lies both in its depiction of Jean Louise reckoning with her father’s beliefs, and in the manner by which it integrates those beliefs into the Atticus we know.” (Time)^“Go Set a Watchman’s greatest asset may be its role in sparking frank discussion about America’s woeful track record when it comes to racial equality.” (San Francisco Chronicle)^“Go Set a Watchman comes to us at exactly the right moment. All important works of art do. They come when we don’t know how much we need them.” (Chicago Tribune)^“What makes Go Set a Watchman memorable is its sophisticated and even prescient view of the long march for racial justice. Remarkably, a novel written that long ago has a lot to say about our current struggles with race and inequality.” (Chicago Tribune)^“[Go Set a Watchman] captures some of the same small-town Southern humor and preoccupation with America’s great struggle: race.” (Columbus Dispatch)^“Go Set a Watchman’s gorgeous opening is better than we could have expected.” (Vanity Fair)^“Go Set a Watchman is more complex than Harper Lee’s original classic. A satisfying novel… it is, in most respects, a new work, and a pleasure, revelation and genuine literary event.” (The Guardian)^“Lee’s ability with description is evident… with long sentences beautifully rendered and evoking a world long lost to history, but welcoming all the same.” (CNN.com)^“A coming-of-age novel in which Scout becomes her own woman…Go Set a Watchman’s voice is beguiling and distinctive, and reminiscent of Mockingbird. (It) can’t be dismissed as literary scraps from Lee’s imagination. It has too much integrity for that.” (The Independent)^“Atticus’ complexity makes Go Set a Watchman worth reading. With Mockingbird, Harper Lee made us question what we know and who we think we are. Go Set a Watchman continues in this noble literary tradition.” (New York Post)^“A deftly written tale… there’s something undeniably comforting and familiar about sinking into Lee’s prose once again.” (People)^“One overarching theme that many critics have zeroed in on is that there is a lot to learn from the novel, as both a writer and a reader.” (Vulture)^“As Faulkner said, the only good stories are the ones about the human heart in conflict with itself. And that’s a pretty good summation of Go Set a Watchman.” (Daily Beast)^“Go Set a Watchman offers a rich and complex story… To make the novel about pinning the right label on Atticus is to miss the point.” (Bloomberg View)^“[Go Set a Watchman is a] brilliant book that ruthlessly examines race relations (Denver Post)^“In this powerful newly published story about the Finch family, Lee presents a wider window into the white Southern heart, and tells us it is finally time for us all to shatter the false gods of the past and be free.” (NPR's "Code Switch")^“[Go Set a Watchman is] filled with the evocative language, realistic dialogue and sense of place that partially explains what made Mockingbird so beloved.” (Buffalo News)
From the Back Cover
“Go Set a Watchman is such an important book, perhaps the most important novel on race to come out of the white South in decades.”—Clay Risen, New York Times
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 perfectly captures a young woman, and a world, in painful yet necessary transition out of the illusions of the past—a journey that can only be guided by one’s own conscience.
Written in the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman imparts a fuller, richer understanding and appreciation of Harper Lee. Here is an unforgettable novel of wisdom, humanity, passion, humor, and effortless precision—a profoundly affecting work of art that is both wonderfully evocative of another era and relevant to our own times. It not only confirms the enduring brilliance of To Kill a Mockingbird but also serves as its essential companion, adding depth, context, and new meaning to an American classic.
“Harper Lee’s second novel sheds more light on our world than its predecessor did.”—Time“Provides valuable insight into the generous, complex mind of one of America’s most important authors.”—USA Today See all Product description
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Novel by Harper Lee, July 2015.
With Harper Lee’s only other book an American classic, the publication of Go Set a Watchman was highly anticipated this summer. As you might expect, the novel has drawn a variety of reactions and responses.
Jean Louise “Scout” Finch is a young woman in her twenties who travels from her home in New York City to the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama, to visit her elderly and arthritic father, and her family. Times have changed since her childhood recorded in Harper Lee’s Pulitzer prize winning novel, To Kill a Mockingbird (1960), and she is not so sure that she likes what she sees and discovers.
Her visit is laced with tension because, as Thomas Wolfe has written, You Can’t Go Home Again. For Jean Louise, this is the time for the Scout portion in her to come of age. But the process is traumatic! Through a series of flashbacks to Scout’s childhood, the reader becomes re-acquainted with neighbour friend, Charles Baker “Dill” Harris (in Italy), and her older brother Jeremy “Jem” Finch, who has since died of a heart condition which also killed her mother.
Aunt Alexandra, and Uncle Jack Finch (a retired doctor) interact at length with Jean Louise in the plot, and play significant roles. While Atticus Finch, the revered father of Jean Louise, does not play a major role, his influence is considerable and pivotal. Childhood friend, Henry “Hank” Clinton who lived across the street, now works in the law office with Atticus, and appears as a potential suitor. The Finch Family maid, Calpurnia, (whom Jean Louise sees as a mother figure) is retired in this narrative, and has a minor---but poignant---role.
Picture the emotional struggle. When Jean Louise returns to the Maycomb that used to be familiar to her, the Scout part of her surfaces in her consciousness, along with her attitudes and remembrances. Things begin to crystallize for her one day, when she follows Atticus to a Citizens’ Council where her father introduces Mr. Grady O’Hanlan, who delivers an aggressively racist speech. Watching from the balcony where she sat, once upon a time, while Atticus defended one-armed Tom Robinson against a rape allegation, Jean Louise is totally devastated. Her world has crashed; her value system has crumbled; but most of all, her god appears to have feet of clay. Her moral compass no longer works.
Her Uncle Jack explains it like this. “You were born with your own conscience, but fastened it like a barnacle onto your father’s conscience. As you grew up, totally unknown to yourself, you confused your father with God. You never saw him as a man with a man’s heart and a man’s failings (they may have been hard to see because he made so few mistakes)---but Atticus makes mistakes like all of us.”
When Jean Louise rants and rails, lunging verbally at her father, her hero, Atticus, remains quiet, controlled, and willingly absorbent of his daughter’s venom. And then he says to her, “I love you. As you please.” Later, after Jean Louise has become more her own person (as opposed to an extension of her father’s goodness), she approaches the old man with the words, “Atticus, I am sorry.” And true to the character we have loved and admired and respected in Atticus Finch, he replies, “You may be sorry, but I’m proud of you. I certainly hoped a daughter of mine would hold her ground for what she thinks is right---and stand up to me, first of all!”
The book’s title comes from Isaiah 21:6 “For thus the Lord said to me: ‘Go set a watchman, let him announce what he sees.’” Jean Louise “Scout” Finch sees her father as the watchman of his day. Yet, somehow, with her return visit to Maycomb, and its initiation of all of the personal growth provoked in Scout, I think Atticus is saying to her, “Now you, Jean Louise, you are a watchman in your day.”
But there’s another verse in Scripture that kept coming into my mind as I read this novel. It’s from Paul’s letter, 1 Corinthians 13: 11. When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became a man (woman), I gave up childish ways.
And quite a few simply did not like the result. At all.
My feelings fall right down the middle.
But only about the story.
For those not in the know, I am going on about Go Set A Watchman, the sequel to the book To Kill A Mockingbird.
Back in 1960, author Harper Lee published her first novel, a coming of age tale set in the 1930’s about a young girl called Scout. She lives a tomboy life with her widowed father, the saintly Atticus, and her older brother. As time goes by, Atticus gets involved as a lawyer for a local racially charged trial, one with far reaching consequences.
Legions of fans, including myself, fell in love with this amazing classic story about love, justice, society, parents, and learning what is right. We also all kinda realized Scout was Lee.
The award winning book spawned an award winning movie, released in 1962 and starring Gregory Peck. And Harper Lee just went back to living to her life, eventually shunning publicity, and not publishing anything at all for decades and decades.
Until her new lawyer found an old manuscript and the now over eighty year old Lee gave the go ahead to publish. Much controversy ensued as many thought the lawyer was controlling and using the elderly Lee to her advantage, all for profit. I fully believe Lee did want this book published, since everything I have heard about her is of a lady very much in charge of her faculties.
Now as for the controversy with the actual book, which also blew up social media.
It is very overblown to say the least.
And it is all about Atticus.
Go Set A Watchman takes place years after Mockingbird, with a now adult Scout heading back to town since she is now living in New York. Her fiancé and Atticus still reside in town and she mostly gets along quite well with both of them. Her aunt is constantly riding her about how to be proper and a lady, while her uncle is supportive and quirky.
Scout can tell she does not quite fit in with the town or people or family. So much has changed but also not changed, and it is obvious Scout is not a happy camper with it all.
But partway through Watchman, Scout finds out Atticus has joined a local Citizens Council, along with her fiancé, and this shatters her into a zillion pieces of emotions. These Councils were just fancy ways to disguise racist activities and discussions.
The life of Scout careens like a crazed ping pong ball as she tries to grapple with Atticus and his involvement with these people. Why? What does it mean? Was all of his teachings a flat out lie?
This revelation also rocked the real world, as breathless headlines, online and not, were flipping out about the sullying of the eternally beloved Atticus.
What these people fail to realize is that Atticus’s attitude is not a full and complete betrayal of what came before.
Our previous example of Atticus is, as Watchman points out, partly a construct of a child’s understanding of the world and the people in it. Atticus is still a good man in many many ways, who tries to move forward in his own way, but he simply cannot live up to what Scout thinks and feels and lives as to what he is.
Which is another issue the disgruntled and disillusioned fans cannot seem to grasp. This Atticus is a bit more realistic then the Mockingbird version. A man born in his time, raised where and when he was, would be probably be way more conservative, and never even take on the law case from the first book. His views here are still repugnant and repellant, but are positively progressive compared to the rest of Citizen’s Council. Atticus Finch may not be a Liberal God anymore, but this one seems more in tune with being a true flawed human being.
As for the writing of Go Set A Watchman, it is easy to see Lee being behind the typewriter. But the wonderful flow and rhythm from Mockingbird is not really evident at first here. It is not until the Atticus revelation that the true beauty of Lee’s writing takes hold and the slightly clunky beginning fades away.
All through Watchman Lee does flashbacks, sometime quite extensive, showing us snippets of Scout’s upbringing over the years. These are interesting and dire and really tells us so much more about Scout and the time she exists in.
One bit of past history that is mentioned a few times is the story of To Kill A Mockingbird, with one interesting twist here. Because Watchman was written before Mockingbird, in this version of reality Atticus won the case. This is a bit jarring and snapped me out of the story a few times.
Which is why in my personal headcannon, Go Set A Watchman can be a sequel to Mockingbird and I am fine with it. But also in my personal headcannon, Watchman can be an alternative Earth 2 version of what might have happened after To Kill A Mockingbird.
In my review long ago for To Kill A Mockingbird, I envisioned Scout marrying Dill and she becomes a lawyer. And they would have a son named Atticus.
I still believe Scout will name her child Atticus.
And of course Atticus has done a complete turn around from his lofty idealism and downright belief that all men are created equal. So I, like many others, wish I didn't know this side of Mr. Finch and found it ruined To Kill a Mockingbird for me. What once was the gold standard in writing in American has now been tarnished.
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