As the media ratchets up coverage of the release of the Harper Lee novel Go Set A Watchman, written years ago but previously unpublished, many readers are mulling over the decision of whether or not to read this book. Some readers report they are enjoying the book, some consider it a must-read. Others voice skepticism of one kind and another.

I have been in the skeptic’s camp. The novel was an early draft of the beloved classic To Kill A Mockingbird. It became that book when a skillful editor suggested changes in viewpoint, focusing on Jean Louise “Scout” as a youngster telling the story. Entertainment Weekly reviewer Tina Jordan articulates my viewpoint better than I can. In the July 24 issue, she writes, “Look, I’m very aware of the fact that no reviewer is going to stop the Watchman juggernaut, I just want people to understand two things: First, this is all about the money, And second, reading Watchman will forever tarnish your memories of one of the most treasured books in American literature.” The Time Magazine reviewer Daniel D’Addario tells us we have what we wanted, another book by Harper Lee, more Scout Finch, but at great cost.

So while Watchman may well accurately reflect the South of the 1950s, is that what you want to read? Do you want a fleshed out Atticus Finch, struggling and real, or is the hero more comforting?

Ann Patchett spoke recently in Petoskey, MI and is quoted in the McLean and Eakin newsletter. I found her remarks helpful. She reminds us that this is Scout’s story as an adult, an adult discovering that her parent is not perfect. And, I would add, an adult discovering the layers of ideas, meanings and actions in her town. When we grow up, or as we grow older, we make painful discoveries about those we love and those we thought we knew well. It happens not just as young adults, but more often as we grow older and learn new things about people, see people through different eyes. The summary of her talk closes like this: “Remember the adage, you can never go home again.” Does she mean that if you read the newly published book, you views of Scout, Atticus, and Alabama in the 50s may be changed, perhaps less hopeful?

We all change, our ideas and our viewpoints, that’s what experience is, and reading too: new learning, traveling to different places, geographically and culturally and personally. Maybe reading this book is a risk worth taking.

Many readers are interested in your decision about this book. Will you read it? Are you reading it? Please, let us know what you think. There is no right or wrong. We want to hear what you think? Is Watchman a good read? How do you feel after reading it? What has influenced your decision?

OK! Bring it on! A lively discussion is one of the joys of reading!

4 thoughts on “WILL YOU OR WON’T YOU?

  1. Stephanie

    I read the book and found the first 100 pages very slow, if not boring. After that it got much better. I ended up liking the book; feeling the same as what you quoted from Ann Patchett above, this was a story of becoming an adult, discoveries of self and family. I also didn’t think it portrayed Atticus in a really bad light, more that it made him human with some faults and thinking of the times but still portrayed him as a fair person. I do think it would be very interesting to know how this book ‘morphed’ into TKAMB and the thought process behind the changes.

  2. Bernadette Mainzer

    Several of my friends have read it and were disappointed. They so loved Mockingbird and it did tarnish their memory and they do not like Scout anymore.
    I think I will leave it on the bookshelf, for now. Too many other good books out there to read.

  3. Karen Kozian

    Last fall I ordered this book from Amazon with the understanding I would receive a copy as soon as it was released. I have yet to receive it. After reading various reviews, I have decided to continue to re read and enjoy To Kill A Mocking Bird and not sully a tale I very much loved by reading Go Set A Watchman.

  4. Judith

    I’m with you, Paulette … still undecided if I will read it. Then again, with all the controversy and varied opinions and reviews, it should make for an interesting book club discussion … I anxiously await your readers’ opinions!


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