By this time I assume everybody knows about the plot of Go set a watchman, so I am going to speak my mind on the entire book. Consider yourself warned in case you don’t want to read spoilers.

go set a watchman harper leeTo me, the book has two different parts: the one in which Jean Louise remembers her childhood in Maycomb, full of funny anecdotes, and the conflict in the present because her father and boyfriend seem to be in favor of segregation, taking into account that we are in the fifties and the bus boycott has just happened.

You can’t read Go set a watchman without keeping To kill a mockingbird in mind, so I have to say that the memories Jean Louise talks about are what all of us wanted to read. To my pleasure, they were not the same the author told in To kill a mockingbird, so if you enjoyed the latter, you now have a wider picture of the childhood of Jean Louise, and it is just as lovely as we knew in the previous book: she getting into trouble and being rescued by her brother, father, and a new character, Hank, who is now her boyfriend and Atticus’ associate. The trial of the black man charged with rape is slightly narrated, but it is not the same and it’s not an important part of the plot in this book.

The problem comes with Atticus. He is an old man now, but in Jean Louise’s memories he is just as we knew him in To kill a mockingbird. So the reader has to get over the idea that a man who time ago believed in equality now fights for segregation, based on the fact that black people were illiterate and couldn’t have an opinion based on true knowledge and, therefore, they are going to ruin the country. I mean, I know that people can change their opinion, but I only see it plausible if they change from being an asshole to being a nice guy, not the opposite, and I just think that this new Atticus is not a realistic character (you may disagree and debate mentioning nazism, for example, but I need to think people change only for the good). Wouldn’t be more normal that a man who believes in equality and has lived through this value for all his life now fights for the black people to have an education and be at last really equal to the white men and women? That’s what I expect for a man like the Atticus of Jean Louise’s childhood, in both books.

Hank is a completely different issue, though. He says he has to find his place in the village, since he comes from a poor family and, even when I don’t share his point of view, I can see it makes sense for a man to choose a party he thinks it will open doors to him.

My copy of the book

My copy of the book

This is not a second part of To kill a mockingbird; it was written to be an independent book, just from another point of view, and I really understand why it wasn’t published in the first place. Not only Atticus can’t be considered a plausible character for what the author wanted to talk about, but the conflict between him and Jean Louise is left for the very end of the book, which is too hasty, meanwhile the first half is quite slow.

Perhaps I’m under the influence of To kill a mockingbird, but I can’t say this is a good book. I’ll just keep Scout’s lovely anecdotes and go read another book. You should do the same.

rakin2Go set a watchman
Harper Lee
Publisher: Harper Collins
288 pages