An historic literary event: the publication of a newly discovered novel, the earliest known work from Harper Lee, the beloved, best-selling author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning classic To Kill a Mockingbird.
Originally written in the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman was the novel Harper Lee first submitted to her publishers before To Kill a Mockingbird. Assumed to have been lost, the manuscript was discovered in late 2014.
Go Set a Watchman features many of the characters from To Kill a Mockingbird some 20 years later. Returning home to Maycomb to visit her father, Jean Louise Finch - Scout - struggles with issues both personal and political, involving Atticus, society, and the small Alabama town that shaped her.
Exploring how the characters from To Kill a Mockingbird are adjusting to the turbulent events transforming mid-1950s America, Go Set a Watchman casts a fascinating new light on Harper Lee's enduring classic. Moving, funny, and compelling, it stands as a magnificent novel in its own right.
©2015 Harper Lee (P)2015 HarperCollins Publishers
"All [characters] are portrayed by Witherspoon with perfect pitch and pacing, and the sure hand of a talented actress who is well aware of the region's racially fraught past." (AudioFile)
I hesitate to step into the turmoil of writing a review here of this newly released and much anticipated novel from Harper Lee. Like many of the reviewers here on audible I read and loved To Kill A Mocking Bird as a child and watched the movie and fell in love with the characters and the south portrayed so beautifully. Like many, the movie subtly took over for the book in my mind, without my awareness and I remembered them as a blur together.
Several months ago I decided to reread To Kill A Mockingbird. Goodness was I shocked. It was not the story from the movie, not the beloved book from my childhood, not a book for children. In the end, a much darker and more forbidding tale than I had remembered. Much of the deeper story had eluded me as a child. As an adult a new story line, even a different book appeared. Mockingbird became a raw, multilayered look at life, families, and the rough and often hateful ways people treat others--neighbors, enemies, children and friends alike. Filled with hypocrisy, double standards and shameful behavior exposed through the eyes of a child, Scout.
I read all the back stories about this new manuscript and I was filled with anticipation for this "adult" book from Harper Lee. My understanding is that this book, Go Set A Watchman, was not a "reject" as suggested here; but that the publisher wished to soften the story by changing the perspective and having the words and social commentary come from the voice of a child. This change in focus made it easier to get a difficult message across without offending the target audience. To me, Go Set A Watchman, is a very different, very adult book. Not easily read by any means, and at the same time impossible to put down.
My advice is to keep an open mind and give this beautiful book a chance. It is not often in a reader's life that we are given a chance to experience a world, created by an author, "age" and to see the characters come full circle to adulthood. I for one view this as a gift and a surprise I never in a million years expected. They are each good and valuable books and harsh comparisons are a waste. My suggestion is to read both books, allow them a chance to stand on their own and decide for yourself. To me it was definitely worth the time. I loved it.
To start out, I am fairly certain that many of the reviewers today on the day of launch either completely missed the meat of the book or, (much) more likely, wrote a review prior to actually listening to the book. Such is the nature of things.
I am at once conflicted and elated by this novel. I am a criminal defense lawyer in the south, so Atticus Finch has, by necessity, been a literary hero of my kind since he first entered the cultural mainstream. He is a beacon of unwavering adherence to truth and justice, fighting the most unpopular of fights. The most honorable man one could be.
As such, it was with exceptionally great alarm that I rode along with Scout as a 26 year old returning to her home during the civil rights era of the 20th century. Her conflict became my own, whether allegorically or through projection. Lee explores, with breathtaking precision, the pressures of maturing and separating into ones own identity in both a personal and social dialogue.
The developments over the course of the book, especially as they pertain to Atticus, broke my heart in a myriad of ways, just as they did to Scout. The blinding resolution, the commentary on generational change and growth, stunned me into silence.
I can understand why the publisher originally passed on this book, written in the 1950s. If you think Mockingbird was controversial... just wait. I had to repeatedly remind myself that these chapters weren't written now, in the context of hindsight, but rather 60 years ago. Aside from that, I honestly think that Watchman, as a 'sequel', had a *much* greater impact in context. Scout's disillusionment becomes our own, just as her final resolution clears us to forgive or understand, in what limited measure we can, the failures of the previous generation.
I realize that this book will be incredibly controversial one way or the other. Let it rest on your brain and percolate through you to distill out into what Lee was actually trying to say. Look past the slurs and the fallen idols. Take it in the context from where it originated.
A tremendous book from one of the great writers of the 20th century. Absolutely worth a credit and your time.
It is not the critic who counts
Despite all the controversy surrounding this novel, even negative reviews from my favorite magazine The New Yorker, I choose to decide for myself, and the verdict is I Loved it. My only memory of To Kill a Mocking Bird was from the school days, and the book title was the only thing I remembered. So I dived in without any preexisting expectations.
I can use more words to describe how wonderfully complex and enjoyable and at times tormenting the novel is, but truth is, if you have at anytime in your life witnessed any form of prejudice, and felt uneasy, you will be able to relate with Scout.
Here is my favorite Quote:
“Prejudice, a dirty word, and faith, a clean one, have something in common: they both begin where reason ends.”.
I'm a African American male and I must say this book made me think of things differently. It made me open my eyes to all the different people and different viewpoints of not only the south but the world. We are so quick to group people together that we forget that we're all individuals.
To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my all-time favorite novels, and so I had to read or listen to this. Reese Witherspoon as narrator made it easy for me to opt for the audiobook. In this, Scout Finch is a 20-something, living in New York, and visiting her hometown in the south. She is trying to figure out which world she belongs in. This is a very flawed novel, with very little happening. It was hard to stay focused for the first half of the novel. Harper Lee does succeed in making the time and place come alive (the 50's in the south).There is an authenticity that is often lacking when modern authors try to take us back to that same place and time. Harper Lee is a very good writer, but there is so little plot here, that the story does not really stand on its own. That said, I did enjoy the second half because I already had a strong relationship with the main characters from To Kill a Mockingbird. This novel had some strong moments, and I am glad that I listened. Reese Witherspoon was a perfect narrator.
College English professor who loves classic literature, psychology, neurology and hates pop trash like Twilight and Fifty Shades of Grey.
Harper Lee’s sequel to her classic To Kill A Mockingbird does not disappoint. Scout has transcended the innocence of her childhood and now must face head-on the moral problems that she was only able to see through her father’s eyes in the first novel… To put it bluntly: with Stephanie Myers, E.L. James and all the other dreck dominating sales, this novel comes like a soothing summer breeze on a stifling hot southern night. Read it slowly, and enjoy quality writing again.
First off, the performance is really, really good. Kudos to Reese Witherspoon. The first 2/3 of the book was interesting knowing that it was written before the iconic TKAMB. You can see the careful development and softening that was done. This is not as well written as Lee's subsequent novel. The last 1/3 was very eye-opening to me. Very crude by today's standards. I'm really surprised how my opinions of different characters changed after listening. Worth the credit, but be warned this is a period piece. It reflects a politic that unfortunately still exists in the South today.
I'd held off reading this book for a while because of all the mixed reviews around the release. I still don't know what to think. It's a perplexing read, as a southerner and as a liberal.
Based on reviews, I was not expecting this be as good as To Kill a Mockingbird. The reviewers were wrong in my estimation. This book explains so much of the conflict the Southerners faced over civil rights. It was explained on a deeply human level. Reese Witherspoon is a real southerner and we were not subjected to a fake southern accent. I love this book!
Wherein those who loved the moral clarity of "To Kill a Mockingbird" can finally, like Scout, accept that heroes are fallible, life is more complex and interesting than fairy tales, and that being "color blind" means seeing only in black and white.
Professional literary critics have been tripping over themselves to denounce Watchman for being no Mockingbird, but so what? I am not the same reader as I was in high school and no longer need virtue fed to me. Sentimentalists who worship Harper Lee the way Scout did Atticus deserve their fate.
This book is worth your time and money.
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