Welcome to our first Thursday book review! One of mine and Lindsey’s favorite things to do is to discuss something we have recently read – be that a book, internet article, or magazine. So, of course we had to include books in our blog. We decided to make “Go Set A Watchman” our very first book review – partly because it has been such a hot topic, partly because I was dying to revisit the characters from “To Kill A Mockingbird.” Also, we are from Alabama (the setting of the book and home state of the author), and feel a true southern duty to support Harper Lee. My heartstrings pull a little every time she mentions Montgomery or some southern phrase I often heard growing up.
To give full disclosure, I had heard bits and pieces about “Go Set A Watchman” on the news when it was released, but I knew relatively nothing about the story line. It had been many years since I read “To Kill A Mockingbird.” It was one of my required reading books in high school (like it is for so many others) and my memory was a little foggy. I went back and read the first half of the book to refresh my memory. It reminded me of the reason so many people love the character of Atticus Finch, as well as what a great story teller Harper Lee is.
So, let’s get to the point, was “Watchman” any good? I think the book is worth a read solely just for the beautiful writing of Harper Lee. I love the way she puts words together. I love her phrases and words of wisdom. I respect and understand the premise of this book, and I walked away glad I decided to pick it up.
The book was written in the mid-1950’s. I particularly enjoyed the fact that it was like looking at a capsule in time. Although we get the sense that Harper Lee is definitely pushing forward thinking ideas regarding racism for her time, I must warn you there are some things in the book that would not fly in today’s politically correct culture. The story is a coming of age story for Jean Louise, or “Scout” as she is called in “Mockingbird.” At 26, she comes home to Maycomb, Alabama from her new place of residence (New York City) for a two week trip. We are introduced to new characters: her Aunt Alexandra, her Uncle Dr. Finch and a suitor named Henry.
The book is definitely slow at times, but it is such an easy read that the slow parts still fly by. There were many flashes back in time to Jean Louise’s childhood and adolescence that gave you the same great storytelling from “Mockingbird.” I especially loved the story about her, Jem and Dill playing Baptist Church and the one about the “falsies” (I’ll let you figure that one out).
The first half of the book felt like a nice, sweet revisit to Maycomb. There was a lot of storytelling, character descriptions and a budding love story. The second half of the book was heavier than the first. About halfway through, Jeane Louise makes a discovery that changes her world. You know this discovery if you have paid any attention to the release of this book at all – Atticus is part of a council with racist ideals. The discovery is heartbreaking and sad, but realistic and relatable. We have all had moments when we have realized that our heroes are human. That our parents are imperfect. That our ideals do not always fit in a shiny box with a ribbon on top. That everybody makes mistakes. Although I had a heads up that this part of the book was coming, seeing it through the eyes of Jean Louise was still gut wrenching.
The rest of the book is about how she learns to deal with this reality and what it means for her future. The last chapter or two is filled with so many little tidbits of wisdom that I could not stop underlining. Here is one example:
“It’s always easy to look back and see what we were, yesterday, ten years ago. It is hard to see what we are. If you can master that trick, you’ll get along.”
I felt emotionally exhausted by the end of the the last few chapters. The ending gave the reader some resolution, but seemed rather quick and short to me. The most satisfying part was witnessing Jean Louise, this character we once knew as a little tomboy, come into an adult of her own.
Am I glad I revisited Maycomb? I’m not sure if I like everything I saw. I’m not sure if the shatter of idealism was worth it. I do know, as an adult, I can understand it. I do know, like Jean Louise, I am wiser for it.
Go to our YouTube Page to see my video review!
~ xoxo Laura
I know what I am reading the first few weeks, but after that our posts are wide open. Send us your suggestions! Please let us know what you thought about “Watchman.” Do you agree with my post? Was it worth it to you?