Go Set a Watchman is set to be one of the most polarising novels in publishing history.
This is the kind of novel that gives you a story to tell of your experience reading it. How you felt reading Harper Lee’s first masterpiece compared with how you felt reading the companion which has been 55 years in the making.
My story of reading Go Set a Watchman involved, surprisingly, a lot of laughter, and unsurprisingly, a lot of conflict not only with the racial tension of Southern America, but with Scout and her transformation from tomboy in dungarees to woman of the world on the cusp of diving headlong into a feminine world she so lacks the preparation for. It also involved a great depression upon finishing, my ideas and illusions and were abruptly put to sleep, as Harper Lee reveals her true intentions in writing To Kill a Mockingbird through the text of Go Set a Watchman, which would have been the first novel had her original publishers not fallen under the charms of the inimitable girl child Scout Finch.
Go Set a Watchman is not better than To Kill a Mockingbird, but instead has carved its own important path, and despite being written and intended for release at the height of Southern American racial tensions, it remains a relevant and needed piece of literature which I’m sure will endure just as its counterpart has.
As for the god like status of Mr Atticus Finch, Lee paints him in a light that is not necessarily good, but it isn’t or wasn’t for the time period, at all uncommon. It’s just that Scout has never noticed it before or understood his motives because she always saw her father through the eyes of an adoring child. When his nature is revealed, her world falls apart and she is literally sick to her stomach. And you, the reader, ride that rough torrent with her.
The feeling on completing this book was inexplicable. Possibly a mixture of unbelieving, closure, shock and awe. But mostly, this book is for me, something that our current world so sorely needs.