Thursday, July 23, 2015


Go Set a Watchman
First of all, this post will be more of a reaction than an official review.  Because of the nature of the book, to reveal too much about the characters and plot would definitely spoil its impact. 

I've read so many opinions about the book from the time it was announced to its recent release, however, having taught the book to 9th grade English students for several years, I felt compelled to purchase it and read it.  To be honest, I'm not sure why all the haters out there are condemning it and refusing to read it.  I was thoroughly captivated and read it in less than 48 hours.

Jean Louise Finch has returned to Maycomb after having completed college and having lived in New York City for several years.  She plans to spend her two week vacation seeing family and friends and visiting old haunts from her past.  She is concerned about her father's health, but is thrilled to see him, although she doesn't feel quite the same about her the fact that Aunt Alexandra is now living with and keeping house for Atticus.

I read in an online comment a week ago that readers will feel like they are visiting old friends as the familiar characters come to life once again.  This is the feeling I had right from the first page.  The tone and pacing of the novel felt familiar as well.  There was Harper Lee's delightful humor present throughout, as well as her interesting turn of phrase and lovely vocabulary.  I embraced the changes within the characters after the twenty year absence.

Many have criticized what they view as a negative change in the character of Atticus Finch.  I feel very differently about it.  A scene from TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD that kept coming to mind was when Atticus made the deal with Scout after her first day at school.  He promised they would keep reading together even though her teacher had told her he wasn't teaching her correctly and they should cease the practice.  To me Atticus's "new" opinions simply reflect that same attitude about Scout's teacher.  Just because you don't agree with someone else's position, doesn't mean that you have to make a federal case of it.  Everyone is free to think for themselves and, unfortunately, everyone must deal with their own personal baggage which means not everyone comes to the same conclusions at the same time.

As for Scout, I remember as a young girl life for her was very black or white, right or wrong, and good or evil.  Despite her travels beyond home, she returns to Maycomb much the same person as when she left.  She expected to experience all the same feelings twenty years later and was greatly surprised by what she encountered.  This trip home changes her perspective on life and how she will need to adjust her thinking as she faces adulthood.

Overall, I am so glad to have the chance to read GO SET A WATCHMAN.  Whatever the controversy, I see the book as another chapter in lives of some of my favorite characters.  I believe it will provide something special for my students who often inquire about what happened next after TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD.

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