Go Set a Watchman

Don’t let other people’s biases take this book away from you.  I think it’s wonderful.  The last line may be the best close of a book I’ve read in a long, long time.  Go Set a Watchman is a true bildungsroman.  Scout comes of age.

You may not like what you read.  You may not agree with the reasoned justifications provided by three different, central characters.  By the end, you may not agree with what Jean Louise does.  But I think you’ll be so glad you read it.

Me?  I wanted to dissect so many sentences.  To compare them to what I knew of To Kill a Mockingbird.  To think about how an author responds to pressure to change her story.

Actually, I think Watchman may be a better book than Mockingbird, so burdened with the confused narration of adult ideas put in a six-year-old’s mouth and a digressive, tension-shattering style.  This one is clearly from the point-of-view of a young woman and gives us a leisurely stroll into Maycomb, before building tension that doesn’t stop.

I have no problem reconciling Mockingbird’s Atticus and Watchman’s Atticus.  As he and Uncle Jack clearly state, Scout had mixed her father up with God.  Well, so did America.  Atticus is a man living through a confusing, pressure-filled time of change.  The points he makes Scout face in herself and in her country are not easy–for her, for him, for us.

If we are really so post-racial today, we wouldn’t have had the tragedies of the past year.  So don’t be afraid to read about cognitive dissonance–how one man faces himself and his community and makes choices.  He does the same in Mockingbird, maybe in a way you can more easily applaud.  But what Atticus does in Watchman is no less believable or genuine.  Perhaps it’s even more true.

For this man can believe one thing for himself and still value justice, still fight injustice.  Do you hold any contradictory beliefs or values?  This book makes you consider yourself, too, if you’re willing.  Who are we to judge a man of his time from the lens of our own, without walking in his shoes?  This book asks you to walk in Atticus’s shoes.

And while the kerfluffel is all about Atticus, the book is really about Jean Louse.  About her growing up, finding her identity, discerning who she can be in relation to a father she idolized and a town she nostaligized.

Read it for it’s laugh out loud, hilarious recollections that aren’t in Mockingbird and the cast of characters as quirky as any from the golden age of Southern literature.  It’s a page turner I read in a few short hours, even as I lingered over idea after idea, sentence after sentence, of Jean Louise wrapping her head around a new reality.  Read it for that, too.

Watchman gives us an honest assessment of race in America, putting Scout in the cherished role of heroic-thinker that Atticus claimed in Mockingbird.  She just doesn’t have her edges polished yet.  I loved every page, laughed, loved, and got sick with Scout, and am ready to talk about it all with anyone who dares.


4 thoughts on “Go Set a Watchman

  1. Oh Rena, you continue to surprise me. I read this review with a smile on my face. I had been so influenced by negative publicity that I had decided not to read this book. Your review gave me the incentive to order it from amazon and it will arrive today. This is one of the best literary reviews I have read in a long time. I immediately went to amazon’s pages of reviews and found many who agreed with you and also many who did not. I have a feeling that the naysayers are clinging to the Atticus of Gregory Peck, handsome, calm, wise who was the source of all good in the world. You have looked at his character logically and honestly without the influence of Hollywood cosmetics.

    You are such a multi-talented woman. Was first impressed with you when I marveled at the the eulogy which you gave your mother, Rose, at her memorial service. It still remains with me as the most lovingly well delivered thank you to a mother that I have heard. The word genius comes to mind whn I consider all your many abilities, which of course Rose knew. I am just slow to understand it.

    Thank you for this review. It is one of my favorites in your collection of musings.

    PS, I cant wait to read the “last line”.

    • You bring tears to my eyes about Rose. Thank you, dear J. I look forward to your thoughts about the book.

      • Our son and his wife are coming new week . They are both psychiatrists and need some R and R. I promised to give her some art lessons.Will have to postpone the book till later. will let you know. Ta.

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