Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee (book review) ***Updated with added thoughts***

Go Set a WatchmanGo Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When you elevate a human being to the status of a god, they will disappoint you. I was worried that this book, supposedly the sequel, or the first draft of Harper Lee's masterpiece To Kill a Mockingbird, would disappoint me. It did not. It's not as good as To Kill a Mockingbird, but nothing I have ever read, since I first read TKaM thirty years ago, is. It's my all-time favorite book. So when I heard that Lee's publisher was releasing Go Set a Watchman, my first reaction was oh shit, don't set your expectations too high!

To be honest, I dreaded reading Watchman. I was terrified that the author of my favorite book ever--the highest of gods in the author universe--would disappoint me. She did. A little. And she didn't. A lot. Just the way I like it. Just like life.

Watchman is, in a way, a more unvarnished version of To Kill a Mockingbird. It's about adult issues told from a young adult's perspective during a developmental stage in our lives when we realize that our parents and heroes make mistakes and have thoughts and feelings separate from us that many times we simply can't understand.

As I read Watchman I was like, huh, so Atticus isn't the flawless fictional hero we grew up thinking he was? His character is actually more fully human and complex. Yes, I wanted to slap him in the face, I felt so betrayed and disappointed in him. Just like Scout feels in the book. But to me, that's real life, and fiction that can show us real life in this light is amazing.

The timing of the book's release is interesting, too, not only because of the shady way her publishers may or may not have handled it, but also because it came out in a day when we're starting to acknowledge that, on a societal level, our heroes are imperfect, flawed human beings. Look at Bill Cosby, Josh Duggar, et al.

I recommend this book to people who love realistic fiction that tackles tough, complex issues with nuance and grace.

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