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I finished Go Set a Watchman the other night. Essentially I sat up in bed and started crying. At times (some might say all the time), I can be a rather sensitive creature, so an emotional reaction is not unusual for me, but the book actually made me upset, which is fairly unusual.
If you like gritty fiction, you might appreciate this sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird. You might find Scout’s visit home to be an interesting study of her childhood, a revisit to the familiar setting of Maycomb from about twenty years later. Certainly, there is something probably everyone can relate to in her struggle to recognize the family she remembers in the family she has now – and that includes Atticus. For Scout, however, this conflict encompasses not simply personal differences, the common result of growing up, but it challenges the very thing that has given her courage and molded her conscience: that she’s always followed her father’s example.
As an unabashed, idealist Romantic myself, I came to regret that this book had been published. It almost ruined for me the beautiful story that is TKAM, through its themes of lost ideals, childhood illusion, and a whole lot of cussing. I find it hard to believe that Scout was a naive child, and this book doesn’t convince me that that must have been the case. It does read as a very personal account, so maybe Lee did draw from her own experiences. I don’t know.
I gave TKAM 4 stars; I give this one 2 out of 5.
One thing I will just mention is that this story is absolutely possible, even credible. I’m not really questioning that. And obviously, for a book to be upsetting, it must have a grain of effectiveness. To me it is still a poor sequel because it neither comes across as a natural consequence of TKAM nor does it persuade me that everything in TKAM was just a kid’s daydream. I think that is because TKAM was written second…in that sense, really, TKAM is the sequel to the struggle in this book.
To Kill a Mockingbird is a classic that still stands alone. Time will tell if Go Set a Watchman ever catches up to it.