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Book Club | Go Set A Watchman

Author: Lisa Soeno

Settling down to read Go Set A Watchman was a bit like catching up with an old friend. Heartwarming, nostalgic, and at times revelatory. 

Warning – there are spoilers in this review so if you haven’t read it yet, you may want to bookmark it until you have 🙂
I first became acquainted with the main characters from Go Set a Watchman, Scout and Atticus, when I was fifteen years old and studying To Kill a Mockingbird, for my GCSE English Literature exam. In To Kill a Mockingbird the year is 1936 and we meet six-year-old tomboy Scout, her big brother Jem and their father Atticus who are living in a small town in Alabama, amongst a small-minded community. The predominant theme is race: Atticus is one of the few white lawyers in the area who is willing to represent a local black man when he is accused of raping a white girl. We see how young Scout and Jem learn about prejudice, class and relationships during the summer of the trial.
Fast forward then, two decades, to Go Set A Watchman. Scout is now in her twenties and has moved to New York. When she returns to her hometown we discover that she is dating her childhood friend Henry and … bombshell number one for me … Jem has died. Lee doesn’t go into details about his death and I am guessing that the reasoning behind this was so as not to detract from bombshell number two. Which is that Atticus is a racist who once attended a Ku Klux Klan meeting. Atticus? Atticus, a racist?! I was so upset by this revelation; however on reflection it probably makes Go Set A Watchman more realistic than its predecessor. I had always considered Atticus to be the perfect man … however is there such thing?
What I LIKED about the book was the fact that it’s one that really makes you think. In my view, these are the best kind of books. The way that Lee incorporates Scout’s flashbacks to her schooldays also made me reminisce upon my own childhood – in particular the chapter where Scout attends her prom. As I had read To Kill a Mockingbird at school, and had empathised with and learned alongside schoolgirl Scout, it seemed apt that I read Go Set a Watchman as an adult, where Scout too has grown up.
You can probably tell that when I read To Kill a Mockingbird as a teenager, my favourite character was Scout. Nevertheless I did feel that there was a big Jem-shaped hole where I looked for him in Go Set a Watchman.  To Kill a Mockingbird definitely had more of an impact on me and the story will stay with me for the rest of my life – I remember being terrified by Boo Radley, shocked to the core by the racist attitudes of the citizens of Maycomb, and inspired by Atticus and his nobility. Although Go Set A Watchman was enjoyable, I found it a little bit – dare I say – forgettable and disappointing.
Did you enjoy Go Set a Watchman? How do you think it compared to To Kill a Mockingbird?

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Author: Lisa Soeno
Lisa is obsessed with all things interior design. And Cadbury buttons.
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7 thoughts on “Book Club | Go Set A Watchman

  1. I read it after loving to kill a mockingbird and had the same thoughts as you really – but then I found out that Harper Lee actually wrote this first and was then pursuaded to write ‘to kill a mockingbird’ on the basis of what is in this book as she was told that would be a more interesting story.
    it was enjoyable, but as you say not the book I was expecting and yes somewhat forgettable

    1. I had read that it was a first draft of To Kill a Mockingbird but wasn’t aware that she was persuaded to write TKAM instead, how interesting. I guess we were spoilt by TKAM 🙂

  2. Oh Lisa, I hated it. I have such strong feelings about this book!

    I adore Mockingbird and rushed out to buy Watchman when it first came out in hardback.

    As it came out so close to Lee’s death, I immediately started questioning it’s release and even if she had written it at all. To me, Mockingbird was such a magical book that shaped me and my attitudes to the world at a very young age. Watchman soured all of that in the first few chapters. It felt so wrong and I decided that I didn’t want to read anymore, so I stopped before I was even halfway through. Maybe that was a mistake, but I want to keep Mockingbird as it has been for my whole life; a stand alone, stand out story. Like you, I found Watchman a disappointment and I felt as though to finish it would tarnish an otherwise beloved story. Xx

    1. I kind of wish I’d done the same Karen. It took me ages to read and I think the only reason I saw it through was because I had said I would review it!

      You’re right on Mockingbird though, MAGICAL x

  3. Karen I feel the same way! I lugged around the hardback for a couple of weeks trying to keep progressing with it but in the end I had to give up! Such a disappointment after loving Mockingbird.

  4. I have skimmed through the review as I haven’t read the book yet so didn’t want to pick up any spoilers, and even though I can tell it isn’t a major hit all round – I am still intrigued! I feel like I need to re-read TKAM first though… Or maybe that will make me dislike it even more?! x

  5. I’m not going to buy it. A confused woman near death suddenly gives permission for a book she has repeatedly refused to publish? I suspect she was manipulated and that she never wanted it in print.

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