Go Set a Watchman

Title: Go Set a Watchman

Author: Harper Lee

Publisher: Harper Collins

Release Date: July 2015

Source: Chapters

Rating: 4/5

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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 form her childhood flood back, and her values and assumptions are thrown into doubt.

When news of Harper Lee’s novel first came out a few years ago, there was a lot of controversy surrounding it involving her rights and the protection of a novel she never wanted to publish.  Ultimately, it rendered me reluctant to purchase and read it, but as time wore on, I realized that I actually just really wanted to read it and find out what it was all about.

Essentially, the novel takes place several years after the events of To Kill a Mockingbird.  It follows Scout’s, or I should say Jean Louise’s, attempt to get through life as a modern woman.  The novel revolves mostly around her visit to Maycomb County, during which she finds out many of the town’s dirty little secrets, destroying her own disillusioned view of her father.

Honestly, reading this novel I found myself completely taken aback at the serious revelations and allegations that came out surrounding her own family, and felt completely disheartened.  Atticus is held on such a high pedestal in To Kill a Mockingbird, and this just crushed me.  But I guess, as the saying goes, never meet your heroes.

Despite this, the novel was wonderfully written in true Harper Lee style.  A classic, for sure.  I felt Jean Louise’s struggles as a modern woman in a small town very telling of society and our culture as a whole (even though I live nowhere near the American South) even in this day and age.  She is condemned by her family and community for being who she is, a woman rising in success.  Condemned because she chose to “abandon” her father for a career in a big city.  Her inner struggle between caring for her father, marrying a man she loves but could never make happy and be happy in return, and her independent, successful and fruitful life in New York.

These are issues that I feel women are still struggling with today.  Home versus professional life.  Dependence versus independence.  Family versus career.  Although the times are changing, society still puts so much pressure on women to abide to gender roles and morals.  Harper Lee addresses these issues, as well as many others also explored in her first novel, that I feel Go Set a Watchman will become an iconic, timeless classic novel in its own time.

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