Yes, I succumbed to the hype and purchased a copy of Go Set A Watchman. I’ve always wanted to like To Kill A Mockingbird more than I do and I blame the curriculum of my high school, college, and law school because the magic of a novel evaporates once it is required reading! Many of the same cast of characters in To Kill A Mockingbird graced the pages here as Jean Louis visited her home in Maycomb on a break from college in New York, but the beauty of the characters was changed: the mature Jean Louis was being courted by Henry instead of running rampant around the neighborhood calling herself Scout, Calpurnia had retired from working in Atticus’ home, and Atticus was an elderly racist.
I found the book to be inconsistent. Portions of the story focused on Jean Louis as her younger self, Scout, and the adventures she had with Jem and Dill. Those were creative, and made me feel as if I was reading To Kill A Mockingbird. There were large sections were Lee described the town, the townspeople, and their history, and those were written with in the charming Southern drawl narrative that gave To Kill A Mockingbird its notoriety. I also really enjoyed seeing how Scout developed into the college student Jean Louis, a woman with thoughts and feelings about political issues such as racism. Those were the highlights, and made me keep reading. As for a plot, very little happened, and what did occur took forever to develop.
If you don’t want everything you think you know about To Kill A Mockingbird to be ruined, don’t read the rest of this review or the book. Ms. Lee broke my little heart when she wrote that Atticus wanted to represent an African-American young man for vehicular manslaughter to help him plead guilty because Atticus didn’t want the NAACP representing him and turning him a martyr or, heaven forbid, getting a defense verdict. I actually had to stop reading for a few minutes to recover from the shock that Atticus, a literary figure for racial equality, wasn’t who I understood him to be. My palpable disappointment allowed me to completely empathize with Jean Louis’ reaction to her father’s position on equality. But, I believe that shocker only had an impact because of Atticus’ actions in the first book. Had someone only read Go Set A Watchman, which, on this topic, lacked in character development, background, context, I doubt a reader would have viewed this as a climax.
Ultimately, I enjoyed this novel with this was a heartwarming story about a young woman’s journey back home where she reminisced about past summer days with her brother and recognized her father was a man with imperfections rather than the God she thought him to be.