Regular readers of my blog or those closest to me will know that as soon as I finished reading To Kill A Mockingbird for Year 10, I fell in love with it and it instantly became my favourite book. Nearly six years later and it still is the best book that I have ever read and it doesn’t seem like that going to change.
When I heard that Harper Lee (Rest In Peace) was going to release a sequel to To Kill A Mockingbird, I felt skeptical. I didn’t want my love of the characters to be distinguished. So I waited… And waited… And I had heard nothing but bad reviews about Go Set A Watchmen. I heard things about the book that just didn’t seem right and didn’t make sense.
It was published in July 2015 and it wasn’t until more than a year later – September 2016 – that I would read it.
Maycomb, Alabama. Twenty-six-year-old Jean Louise Finch – ‘Scout’ – returns home from New York City to visit her ageing father, Atticus. Set against the backdrop of the civil rights tensions and the 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.
I feel like this review is going to be very short and very brief. I did not like this book and I felt like it shouldn’t have even been written (Harper Lee, what were you thinking? I would love to know…) I finished the book, put it down and felt like crying. Go Set A Watchman hadn’t ruined my love for To Kill A Mockingbird, but it had added detail to the characters that I didn’t want, it expanded on things that I didn’t want to learn about. For me, TKAM is the perfect standalone with the perfect characters and the perfect messages about society. GSAW ruined it all.
*minor spoilers now so look away if you don’t want to read about them*
“The only human being she had ever fully and wholeheartedly trusted had failed her; the only man she had ever known to whom she could point and say with expert knowledge, “He is a gentleman, in his heart he is a gentleman,” had betrayed her, publicly, grossly and shamelessly.”
– Harper Lee, Go Set A Watchman
The biggest question I had once I had finished this book was ‘was Atticus racist or not then?’ We are told that Atticus attends council meetings and that he has turned into a hater of black people but later on in the book, we are told by Louise’s love interest that the only reason him and Atticus turn up to the meetings is to see whose faces lie beneath the masks, so when the time comes for “war”, Atticus and Hank know who want to destroy Maycomb.
Then, at the end of the book, Scout has a huge argument with Atticus, yelling at him about how he’s completely different to the way he brought her up. How he has ruined everything by going to the council meetings and become the complete opposite of the values he used to believe in. Atticus doesn’t even argue with her.
I wanted to cry. I really did. Atticus was this fictional character that I felt a huge amount of love for. I fell in love with him in year 10, I fell in love with what he believed in and in GSAW, Lee ruined everything. Twenty-six-year-old Scout became the person Atticus was in TKAM and Atticus became someone that I didn’t even recognise.
Also, quick point, can we just talk about how annoying Scout was with Hank? Stop playing the poor lad and just tell him whether you’re going to marry him or not. Of course, after she saw him and her father at the council meetings, I could understand why Scout was weary of marrying Hank but before that, she was messing him around so much!
I only give this book two stars because it’s from the same world as TKAM and it’s written by Harper Lee. This book should never have been written, it should never have been published, it should never have even been an idea. I’m sorry Harper Lee, I love you, I will always love you, but this book shouldn’t have happened. TKAM was a book of pure perfection. You should have left it like that.