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Publisher's Summary

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

Critic Reviews

"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)

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To Kill A Mockingbird vs Go Set A Watchman

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.

340 of 372 people found this review helpful

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  • Mark
  • Waltham, MA, United States
  • 08-20-16

Flawed but interesting after reading To Kill...

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.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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Ignore the reviews, just read the book.

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.”.

67 of 86 people found this review helpful

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Awesome

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.

61 of 81 people found this review helpful

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Rich, Ornate Prose

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.

156 of 221 people found this review helpful

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Do Not Bother

Would you try another book from Harper Lee and/or Reese Witherspoon?

No more Harper Lee, even if another novel is "discovered."<br/>Reese Witherspoon was excellent.

How would you have changed the story to make it more enjoyable?

Not published it at all.

What does Reese Witherspoon bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

She was very good.

If this book were a movie would you go see it?

No.

Any additional comments?

TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD is one of the best books I have ever read. This "prequel" is not in the same class. I didn't care for the characters or the plot, and the end goes on and on. It just isn't outstanding literature in any sense, and I doubt that it has done Harper Lee's legacy any particular good.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Atticus was ruined forever

The story itself was quite good and it really made me think. However, this is not a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird as some might have you believe. This is the rough draft of To Kill a Mockingbird. The changes between the two are dramatic and it's quite clear that Go Set a Watchman was never meant to be published.

If you're willing to accept that this is not a sequel and have the character of Atticus tainted forever, the story is quite thought provoking.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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good book, bad performance

I think the book was good overall. Alot of back story had to be filled in to get to the final message off the book, which seemed anticlimactic but a good message. Because of this the story could get slow in some spots. I was really hoping to enjoy Witherspoon reading, but found it difficult to follow dialogue between characters because she wouldn't change her tone often and when she did it was comical, it was like she was a teacher changing the voices in a story for a group of preschoolers. If another person would have read it, it would have been better.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Not as good as TKAM

I was a bit disappointed in this book, mainly because I so loved Scout in TKAM. She grew up to be an annoying, opinionated, judgemental young lady and her rants really got under my skin. Atticus seemed weak in this book. Uncle Jack was the voice of reason where I would have liked Atticus to have been a much stronger character.
Reese Witherspoon's reading is delightful and saved the book.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Glad it was rewritten as To Kill a Mockingbird

If Harper Lee had only wrote and published this book and never wrote To Kill a Mockingbird I imagine that it never would have received much notice.

Its undeniably well written and brings to life the small town society of the american south in the 1950s, but when you get right down to it, there isn't much of a story.
Where Mockingbird has the centrepiece of the trial and the defence put up by Atticus Finch, this book has no such focal point.

Many of the same characters appear in both books, but they are not, in reality, the same people. They have different beliefs and see the world in a different way. Readers shouldn't make the mistake of trying to compare the two books based on what the characters say and do. The two books should be considered on their merits as completely separate novels, which happen to be set in the same town with characters with the same names.

I did enjoy the book, though if it hadn't been written by Harper Lee then i'm unlikely to have ever read it.

Lets be thankful that Lee's editor had the forsight to get the author to rewrite this book, thus giving us the classic that is To Kill a Mockingbird.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful