The fact that Go Set A Watchman was published at all is a big deal as Harper Lee has, in the past, said that she would never publish another book. Now toss in the fact that some people think that she was in no state of mind to actually approve the publishing and this book becomes kind of scandalous. From what I understand there was an investigation and everything was found to be on the up and up. After skimming through a few articles that kind of mention the book but then skip into outrage that it was even published in the first place, I decided I need to just read it. I’m not going to pretend to know the background drama of the publishing process for this, but I’m happy I got the opportunity to read it.
Having read it, I understand a little better why people are so outraged it was published, and for some of them I suspect it has less to do with Harper Lee being taken advantage of, and more to do with the picture perfect world they shared with Scout becoming a little less noble and perfect. We spent all of To Kill a Mockingbird seeing the world through Scout’s eyes as a child, in Go Set A Watchman we’re still seeing the world through Scout’s (now grown up and referred to as Jean Louise) eyes but she’s grown up and home after living in New York City for years. As so often happens when people return to their childhood home after growing up, Jean Louise experiences disillusionment after disillusionment. Because we’ve all gotten so attached to her story and childhood as readers we go through the emotions and disappointments about the adults in her life that turn out to be flawed people with her.
Along with making some realizations about the truths of where she grew up Jean Louise spends a lot of time reminiscing. Throughout the book there are quite a few flashbacks. The flashbacks add to the emotional punch of finding out that things have never really been what they seem but I did find them a bit excessive. It was frustrating for me to be following the storyline of adult Jean Louise then suddenly she’s avoiding the harsh realities of the present by living in the past.
Overall this book was certainly worth the read. It was not as heartwarming as To Kill A Mockingbird but that was just because it was more adult. Apparently To Kill A Mockingbird came from the flashbacks in the first draft of Go Set A Watchman which does not surprise me at all, but I am glad To Kill A Mockingbird was published first. Sometimes we need one knight in shining armor that will always be there to fight the good fight and To Kill A Mockingbird gave us that. I think it’s also important that eventually we realize that all armor is removable and the knight might not always be on the right side, so we’ll have to step up and fight for ourselves and that’s what Go Set A Watchman gave us.