Go Set a Watchman- Preliminary Thoughts

I, like most people, was excited and cautious when I heard about the new Harper Lee book a few months ago. I was skeptical about the timing (Lee's sister had died) and I knew that there was probably a reason Go Set a Watchman had never been published. Nonetheless, it's a literary event one way or the other! I pre-ordered my copy, set myself up to finish To Kill a Mockingbird just before release day, and stayed the hell away from advance commentary (and still have, until this post is finished, and then game on). So, honestly, I'm not sure what everyone is saying, but here are some of my preliminary thoughts on the book (spoilers will be indicated!):

1. It's boring- I had a really hard time getting into this book, and a found it difficult to become invested (in fact, I didn't, but more on that in a second). So often I just wanted to be done. There was some information that just didn't seem that pertinent and made the novel drag on. 

2. Remembering context- There are going to be a lot of inconsistencies between the two novels, since she wrote GSAW first (it's set twenty years in the future, when Scout is an adult). Don't hold it against Lee or the book. 

3. A first draft?- Go Set a Watchman reads like a first draft of To Kill a Mockingbird. It seems the editor took a look at it, told her to keep some characters and take the idea of the childhood flashbacks to turn into the real novel. There are some similar lines that are used in each.

4. (SPOILER... sort of?) The Atticus situation- We all love Atticus Finch; in fact, if he were a real man I'd like to leave my husband for him (kidding, kidding). So when it comes about that he has mingled with both the Klan and other racist groups people are going to be devastated. But remember, Lee didn't originally intend for him to the be saint he was in TKAM; this is the real Atticus, essentially. He's far less progressive than we're used to, and while he's not exactly a full-blown racist (the argument of whether or not you can be partially racist is another conversation), he believes the Civil Rights movement needs to slow its roll. There's this idea in the book about Scout realizing that her father isn't a God; as readers we need to accept this as well. 

5. It's not well-written- While TKAM is rough around the edges at times, it does have some polished, well-crafted poignant moments. GSAW really doesn't have much that's comparable. But again, TKAM was written by a more experienced writer.

6. The characters are flat- The characters in  GSAW are fairly one-dimensional, lacking the depth and development that they could. The biggest culprits are Aunt Alexadria and Henry. I would have loved to get to know Dr. Finch more, and Scout herself could have been fleshed out a lot more. No one is special, no one is really worth becoming emotional over.

7. Probably more realistic- When it comes to race, GSAW is much dirtier than TKAM, in regards to racism. There was racism in TKAM, but Atticus' white-knighting (no pun intended) was more the focus. In GSAW we see the darker side of how the white leaders in a community saw civil rights. It's sad, and it's not as pretty or feel-good, but I feel there's probably more truth in GSAW.

8. The ending- The ending is rushed, a bit forced, and wrapped up too neatly, considering the heavy topics (race, father-daughter relationship, marriage, etc...) that are being handled. 

9. You should read it- This, as I mentioned before, is an important literary event and it's a really interesting study in terms of novels published so long after they are written. 

I know this isn't exactly the most scholarly, in-depth analysis, but I wanted the opportunity to jot down what I was thinking before I start reading what others have written. 

Have you read it yet? Are you going to? 


  1. 1. Oh no, oh no, oh no...
    4. Yeah, all the hipsters who named their kid Atticus are cringing...
    5. Oh no, oh no, oh no...
    6. Bugger
    8. *sigh*
    9. I know...

    1. Hahaha, I truly did consider Scout if I had a girl. I don't think I would've used it, but hey, maybe. :)

  2. hahaha to the comment above about hipsters naming their kids Atticus. I know someone who named their kid Atticus.
    Anyway. I only just recently read To Kill A Mockingbird, I think I might have read it in high school but I didn't remember it, so it was like a fresh new book. I don't think I will read Go Set A Watchman to be honest.

  3. I am so torn...you are right that it is a literary event, but the more I hear, the more I feel like this really was more like a first draft that was never intended to been published.

  4. Thanks for this and for #9. I am reading it solely because, as you say, it is an important literary event. But I'm conflicted as well.

  5. I know I should read it, the whole thing just seems so sad to me. I wouldn't even want early drafts of my blog posts published, let alone an early draft of a novel...

  6. I'm not planning to read this book, but I am super interested in hearing what everyone else has to say about it. Apparently Reese Witherspoon is the reader of the audiobook version. That seemed so...random to me.