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Go Set a Watchman (2015)

by Harper Lee

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
6,2863671,089 (3.34)3 / 286
"Maycomb, Alabama. Twenty-six-year-old Jean Louise Finch -- "Scout"--Returns home from New York City to visit her aging father, Atticus. Set against the backdrop of the civil rights tensions and political turmoil that were transforming the South, Jean Louise's homecoming turns bittersweet when she learns disturbing truths about her close-knit family, the town and the people dearest to her. Memories from her childhood flood back, and her values and assumptions are thrown into doubt. Featuring many of the iconic characters from To Kill a Mockingbird, Go Set a Watchman perfectly captures a young woman, and a world, in a painful yet necessary transition out of the illusions of the past -- a journey that can be guided only by one's conscience. Written in the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman imparts a fuller, richer understanding and appreciation of Harper Lee. Here is an unforgettable novel of wisdom, humanity, passion, humor, and effortless precision -- a profoundly affecting work of art that is both wonderfully evocative of another era and relevant to our own times. It not only confirms the enduring brilliance of To Kill a Mockingbird, but also serves as its essential companion, adding depth, context, and new meaning to an American classic." -- Book jacket.… (more)
  1. 122
    To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (JuliaMaria, KayCliff)
    JuliaMaria: Harper Lee hat nur zwei Bücher veröffentlicht. Das zweite - "Gehe hin, stelle einen Wächter" - erst mit 90 Jahren - auch wenn es schon früher geschrieben wurde. Es war die literarische Sensation des Jahres 2015.
    KayCliff: Go Set a Watchman is the sequel to To Kill a Mocking Bird
  2. 30
    Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor (amanda4242)
  3. 52
    The Heart Is a Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers (Cecrow)
    Cecrow: Another story of the south by an author with similar background.
  4. 20
    The Optimist's Daughter by Eudora Welty (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: Moving and bittersweet, these Southern Gothic novels portray women pushed to their emotional limits as they return home and re-establish old relationships. Both are literary and character-driven, with a thoughtful style that also references mid-twentieth-century events and attitudes.… (more)
  5. 10
    The Keepers of the House by Shirley Ann Grau (vwinsloe)
    vwinsloe: Southern values shortly before the civil rights era
  6. 10
    Tongues of flame by Mary Ward Brown (andrewcorser)
    andrewcorser: Further insight into the Southern States
  7. 10
    Four Spirits by Sena Jeter Naslund (BookshelfMonstrosity)
    BookshelfMonstrosity: Although Go Set a Watchman takes a more humorous approach than Four Spirits, both novels, set in the mid-twentieth-century South, spotlight the effects of the Civil Rights Movement on individuals. They are captivating, character-driven cameos representing society as a whole.… (more)
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English (356)  Italian (2)  German (2)  Spanish (2)  Norwegian (1)  Dutch (1)  All languages (364)
Showing 1-5 of 356 (next | show all)
A reminder that heroes on pedestals are not always what they seem. And, that living in a culture that is unsettling can be the best path both for yourself and the culture generally. ( )
  aevaughn | Jul 9, 2020 |
I spent yesterday afternoon finally reading Watchman. Setting aside the controversy about Atticus' racism and the manuscript's discovery, I have to say... this is not well-written. Or: Watchman is a juvenile, ill-considered, clumsy mess. Lots of weighty flashbacks, lots of "asides" (pause button violations in MFA speak), poor structure, shallow characterization, almost completely "tell" with very little show. The dialogue is stilted and, behind it, the puppet master of the author all too visible. An inferior work even for the time. And now -- just unfortunate, to be kind. It's a tribute to Lee's editor Tay Hohoff that she glimpsed in the flashbacks that take up a large chunk of the book the much more interesting story. I was reading fast toward the end (blah blah -- lots of arguing about state's rights -- blah blah) but I think one of the shocks is that Scout (and inside her, Lee) makes an impassioned case for why racism is the right choice for the time. That racism is necessary to "save" white identity. Blech. Atticus' brother, who takes up the last quarter of the book, tells Scout to shut up and I kind of agreed with him (even though he was also of this opinion, that White Councils etc. were a thoughtful and defensible response to the threat of Negro domination). I wish Lee had written after Mockingbird, so that she could put to use everything that she'd learned from rewriting Watchman into a masterpiece. Alas, greed or ego or just piss poor judgment pulled Watchman from the drawer where is should have remained. About the only people I can recommend this to are writers interested in comparing a first and final draft (and observing the incredible depth of the revision, where not a single sentence of the original remains). ( )
1 vote MaximusStripus | Jul 7, 2020 |
Just like the saying "You can never go home" ... you can never go back to the old characters or settings or well-springs of a novel you loved as a child with a new "story". And thats kind of apt, because thats also the main gist of the "story" itself.

Though, even there, this feels disjointed. There really isn't much in the way of story. Jean Louise (Scout) comes home from New York for an extended stay/vacation. While there she starts up a fling she has everytime she comes home with Henry/Hank Clinton. She realizes how different she is from the people she grew up. She reminisces about Dill (whose gone) and Jem (whose dead) as well as Calpurnia (who is barely mentioned, and when we do see her, she's turned her back on the family). We get some new characters and learn the background of them, but there's no backbone story so far.

Up until very late in the book, like Part V (maybe IV) of VII parts, we find nothing more significant going on other than 1) Jean Louise doesn't fit in and 2) she will/won't marry Henry. Then in Part V we get where she comes across racism propaganda in Atticus's bedroom/study, and then she spies on them at a meeting, that's basically just a front for "keeping the Negro down".

So she spies on this meeting, which Atticus and Henry both attend. She confronts the two of them (separately) , completely calls out Henry, and has a massive fight with Atticus. And in the process gets various lectures from Alexandra (her aunt) and Dr. Finch (her uncle) who even slaps her across the face twice. She visits Calpurnia who shuns her family. She loses all semblance of herself and her family and her place and trust in all of them.

....and then suddenly at the very end of the novel, Dr. Finch, after hitting her, and having her drink whiskey, gives her some BS, and she suddenly "comes around" to accepting them, and accepting people despite their beliefs/feelings.

This all sounds lofty and mighty ideal goals. Like Democrats finding peace in Republicans and vice versa. But the way it is presented in this, and the NATURE of what it is, is completely at odds. And the character (basically assassinations) of Atticus is completely destroyed and even Jean Louise is as well. Atticus at the end kind of comes off as a "I'm only there to safeguard" and to "protect" but it all rings so hollow and untrue.

By this point in the novel I was totally in the "you can't go home twice" camp, and then as the Atticus explaining himself chapter begins I was HOPING that Harper Lee turns things around and presents a sound argument, and/or explanation.... but .... we just don't get it. We get this and that about the NAACP and this and that about equal but separate and all manner of BS like that.

And sadly, we get all of this right at the end of Harper Lee's life. So we can't really get an explanation from her, we can't really get her reasonings for this novel, other than knowing the novel was never really meant to be published. So sadly, it all just doesn't work out, and we end up thinking that both Atticus is a racist, and that by extension or maybe because SHE is - that he becomes it - that Harper Lee is kind of racist in that "silly old Grandma in the home" kind of way.

Sadly, I can't help but give it more than 2 stars. Its just.... so disheartening to see what's become of something that was such a tremendous piece of work like 'To Kill a Mockingbird' was. ( )
  BenKline | Jul 1, 2020 |
This is a straight up 1.5 star read. And due to Goodreads not having half stars I am rounding down to 1 star since I don't believe this is a 2 star read at all.

Sigh. This is probably going to be long and I hope I don't ramble too much. Suffice it to say I did not like this book at all. I decided to separate my feelings from To Kill A Mockingbird and judge this book on it's own merits and honestly have to say that if this was a newbie author I would have stopped reading about page 43 when we got to Part II. Why, because nothing was happening, and the whole book was light on any sort of in depth characters. This is to put it simply, a coming of age book that takes place in Alabama. If the names Scout/Jean Louise, Atticus, Jem, Dill, etc. did not appear I would never have picked up this book at all.

I read To Kill A Mockingbird a few months ago. Maybe if I had not, many things would still not be so fresh in my mind. But since I did I had a lot of trouble reconciling Harper Lee who wrote the former book and the Harper Lee who wrote the latter book.

This book is taking place in the late 1950s and I assume based on things that are said in this book, it must have taken place right after the Supreme Court ruling about Brown versus Board of Education (1954) when the Supreme Court ruled that state laws establishing separate public schools for black and white students to be unconstitutional. So for me, this was really Harper Lee's commentary on the growing civil rights unrest that was going on in the United States at the time.

Told in the third person we follow the Finch's and others of Maycomb, Alabama.

The plot such as it is really is about Jean Louise coming home at the age of 26 and realizing that her father is not the great man that she had built up in her mind. And it is somehow her fault for not getting that fact before hand.

Now is it important for people to realize that their parents are not mythical gods and goddesses? Yes.

Should one get that fact before they are 26? I would hope so.

I guess we can surmise that Jean Louise is in a state of arrested development. One wonders how though since she has not lived at home for years and has lived up "North" that she would start to see her place of birth as backward in its dealings with blacks.

So besides the simplistic plot, the characters are as deep as a puddle.

Let's take Jean Louise. I still after 278 pages have no idea what Jean Louise was doing in New York. Where was she working? Where was she living? Who the heck are her friends? I know that she kind of sort of believes in rights for blacks, but doesn't like it that the federal government has stepped in and said segregation on any level is bad. She is momentarily devastated by the truth about her family and her sort of fiancee Henry, but seems over it by the end of the book, and also feels badly for lashing out. So what lesson is learned here? Your heroes are not heroes and feel badly for calling them out on their shit.

Heck you all know how Atticus Finch has been written. I will never understand at all who thought it was a great idea to release this book into the world and have it read that Atticus was okay when the blacks kept to their own places/things and the man who was ready to face down a lynch mob (in To Kill A Mockingbird) is eager to take a case not because he wants to fight for his client, but to prevent the NAACP from taking the case and working their voodoo in Maycomb.

Hank, I suspect we know all of the facts in the case the best that can be done for the boy is for him to plead guilty.
Now isn't it better for us to stand up with him in court than to have him fall into the wrong hands?
A smile spread slowly across Henry's face.
I see what you mean Mr. Finch.
Well I don't, said Jean Louise. What wrong hands?
Atticus turned to her. Scout you probably don't know it, but the NAACP-paid lawyers are standing around buzzards down here waiting for things like this to happen---
You mean colored lawyers?
Atticus nodded.
Yep. We've got three or four in the state now. They're mostly in Birmingham and places like that, but circuit by circuit they watch and wait, just for some felony committed by a Negro against a white person--you'd be surprised how quickly they find out--in they come and...well, in terms you can understand, they demand Negroes on the juries in such cases.
They subpoena the jury commissioners, they ask the judge to step down, they raise every legal trick in their books--and they have 'em plenty--they try to force the judge into error.
Above all else, they try to get the case into a Federal court where they know the cards are stacked in their favor.

Uncle Jack is just as bad as Atticus and we get to hear his thoughts on the Civil War (heck it wasn't about slavery--good to know Uncle Jack) and his comments about Jean Louise and becoming an adult.

Henry I actually sort of pity because though he is led around by his nose by either Atticus or Jean Louise.

The other characters we are introduced to are just as flat.

What set me off is that we get a lot of rhetoric from these fictional characters about the War of Northern Aggression (or the freaking Civil War) and their thoughts and wrong commentary on it. Point blank, the Civil War was about slavery. Someone trying to push that state's rights crap on you is full of it and you should just smile politely until they stop talking to you. Since Jean Louise was always seen as Harper Lee's stand-in one then questions what her ultimate thoughts and feelings were on the growing civil rights movement in the U.S.

Now, let's focus on the writing. I can't believe that the woman who wrote sentences like this from To Kill a Mockingbird:

It was summertime, and the children came closer.
A boy trudged down the sidewalk dragging a fishing-pole behind him.
A man stood waiting with his hands on his hips.
Summertime, and his children played in the front yard with their friend, enacting a strange little drama of their own invention.
It was fall, and his children fought on the sidewalk in front of Mrs. Dubose's.
The boy helped his sister to her feet, and they made their way home.
Fall, and his children trotted to and fro around the corner, the day's woes and triumphs on their faces.
They stopped at an oak tree, delighted, puzzled, apprehensive.
Winter, and his children shivered at the front gate, silhouetted against a blazing house.
Winter, and a man walked into the street, dropped his glasses, and shot a dog.
Summer, and he watched his children's heart break.
Autumn again, and Boo's children needed him.

Somehow wrote sentences like this:

Let's look at it this way, said her father.
You realize that our Negro population is backward don't you?
You will concede that?
You realize the full implications of the word backward don't you?
Yes sir.
You realize that the vast majority of them here in the South are unable to share fully in the responsibilities of citizenship, and why?
Yes sir.
But you want them to have all of its privileges?

The only time that I got flashes of her writing from To Kill A Mockingbird was when we would have Jean Louise reminiscing about her childhood. I remember smiling about a particular plot point of Jean Louise believing she was pregnant due to a boy kissing her. That evoked feelings of To Kill A Mockingbird. However, those passages were clunky when tied in with the rest of the book. The book had no flow to it at all. It started and ended abruptly.

There are so many continuity errors in this book (the outcome of the trial in To Kill a Mockingbird changes; we don't have the children really having to deal with all of the abuse they dealt with when Atticus defended Tom Robinson; we don't have the whole town for example saying that they chose him because he was the best of them; etc.) that one wonders why this is even called a sequel.

The ending just kind of happens and I guess we are supposed to think that now Jean Louise is an adult and is ready to face her future. I am going to hazard a guess it will be her married to Henry and ignoring the rubbish those around her are spouting since it's her fault for believing in them at all.

Goodbye Atticus Finch. You deserved better. We all did. ( )
  ObsidianBlue | Jul 1, 2020 |
Yep. It kind of ruined Atticus but that seemed to be one of the central purposes of the novel. Scout had put him on a pedestal and in this she reaches a new reality. ( )
  Georgina_Watson | Jun 14, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 356 (next | show all)
And so beneath Atticus’s style of enlightenment is a kind of bigotry that could not recognize itself as such at the time. The historical and human fallacies of the Agrarian ideology hardly need to be rehearsed now, but it should be said that these views were not regarded as ridiculous by intellectuals at the time. Indeed, Jean Louise/Lee herself, though passionately opposed to what her uncle and her father are saying, nevertheless accepts the general terms of the debate as the right ones.
added by danielx | editNew Yorker, Adam Gopnik (Jul 27, 2015)
 
Go Set a Watchman is a troubling confusion of a novel, politically and artistically, beginning with its fishy origin story. .. I ached for this adult Scout: The civil rights movement may be gathering force, but the second women's movement hasn't happened yet. I wanted to transport Scout to our own time — take her to a performance of Fun Home on Broadway — to know that, if she could only hang on, the possibilities for nonconforming tomboys will open up. Lee herself, writing in the 1950s, lacks the language and social imagination to fully develop this potentially powerful theme.
added by danielx | editNPR books, Maureen Corrigan (Jul 13, 2015)
 
Despite the boldness and bravery of its politics, Go Set a Watchman is a very rough diamond in literary terms … it is a book of enormous literary interest, and questionable literary merit.
added by Widsith | editThe Independent, Arifa Akbar (Jul 13, 2015)
 
It is, in most respects, a new work, and a pleasure, revelation and genuine literary event, akin to the discovery of extra sections from T S Eliot’s The Waste Land or a missing act from Hamlet hinting that the prince may have killed his father.
added by Widsith | editThe Guardian, Mark Lawson (Jul 12, 2015)
 
Watchman is both a painful complication of Harper Lee’s beloved book and a confirmation that a novel read widely by schoolchildren is far more bitter than sweet. Watchman is alienating from the very start.
added by Widsith | editTime, Daniel D'Addario (Jul 11, 2015)
 

» Add other authors (4 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Lee, Harperprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Drews, KristiinaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Johansson, EvaTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Witherspoon, ReeseReadersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Dedication
In memory of Mr. Lee and Alice
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Since Atlanta, she had looked out the dining-car window with a delight almost physical.
Quotations
"Every man's island, Jean Louise, every man's watchman, is his conscience." "There is no such thing as a collective conscious".
"Aunty," she said, cordially, "why don't you go pee in your hat?"
I need a watchman to lead me around and declare what he seeth every hour on the hour.  I need a watchman to tell me this is what a man says but this is what he means, to draw a line down the middle and say here is this justice and there is that justice and make me understand the difference. I need a watchman to go forth and proclaim to them all that twenty-six years is too long to play a joke on anybody, no matter how funny it is.
I was taught never to take advantage of anybody who was less fortunate than myself, whether he be less fortunate in brains, wealth, or social position; it meant anybody, not just Negroes. I was given to understand that the reverse was to be despised. That is the way I was raised, by a black woman and a white man.
I detest the sound of it as much as its matter
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Book description
From Harper Lee comes a landmark new novel set two decades after her beloved Pulitzer Prize–winning masterpiece, To Kill a Mockingbird.

Maycomb, Alabama. Twenty-six-year-old Jean Louise Finch—"Scout"—returns home from New York City to visit her aging father, Atticus. Set against the backdrop of the civil rights tensions and political turmoil that were transforming the South, Jean Louise's homecoming turns bittersweet when she learns disturbing truths about her close-knit family, the town, and the people dearest to her. Memories from her childhood flood back, and her values and assumptions are thrown into doubt. Featuring many of the iconic characters from To Kill a Mockingbird, Go Set a Watchman perfectly captures a young woman, and a world, in painful yet necessary transition out of the illusions of the past—a journey that can only be guided by one's own conscience.

Written in the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman imparts a fuller, richer understanding and appreciation of Harper Lee. Here is an unforgettable novel of wisdom, humanity, passion, humor, and effortless precision—a profoundly affecting work of art that is both wonderfully evocative of another era and relevant to our own times. It not only confirms the enduring brilliance of To Kill a Mockingbird, but also serves as its essential companion, adding depth, context, and new meaning to an American classic.
Haiku summary
Scout Finch returns home/Atticus is a racist/Scout sees him anew (waitingtoderail)

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