If you're going to enjoy Go Set a Watchman, you need to come at it with an appropriate mindset. I'll do my best to explain mine.
What GSaW is not: ThisIf you're going to enjoy Go Set a Watchman, you need to come at it with an appropriate mindset. I'll do my best to explain mine.
What GSaW is not: This is not a prequel or sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird. Neither is it a chance to learn more about Atticus or Scout (Jean Louise) or the people of Maycomb you came to know and love when you read TKaM as a kiddo. While it certainly offers commentary on race and the Southern tensions surrounding it, GSaW is not commenting on the current state of these. Nor is this even a completed, edited-for-publishing novel.
What GSaW is: Go Set a Watchman can best be read and appreciated as a draft of To Kill a Mockingbird. And an early one at that. You'll note I won't refer to GSaW as a "book", because it's not. Written a full three years before TKaM's release, it is what her editor saw as the building blocks of a better, more nuanced story. And TKaM was born from it. This version of the story was therefore left largely unedited, which explains why it rambles at times, switches from 1st to 3rd person narration, and lapses into long speeches rather than story to reveal the author's intent.
Similarly, the characters within GSaW are based on memories of Harper Lee's youth. They aren't revisions or further revelations of TKaM's characters but perhaps could be appreciated as rougher sketches of them. Here Atticus and Dill are more a version of real people (Lee's father and childhood friend Truman Capote, respectively) than characters in their own right. As she grew as a writer, so too did Atticus become the archetypal father we love, "Atticus". (It's worth noting that Lee's father was also a lawyer who also defended a man – two actually – in a case with echos of Tom Robinson's.)
Most of all, for those complaining about its commentary on race and the South, GSaW must be understood as a picture of where those stood in Alabama in the late 1950s. To read the views of Atticus or Uncle Jack or Henry and to be viscerally upset by them is to react as if they were written in 2015. Today, rather, they are merely a snapshot of the South in the 1950s. And that picture can be upsetting. But just as a person 25 years from now will likely see our current social views as antiquated (and quite possibly even disturbing), it's an odd thing for us to look back over 50 years and point a damning finger, exclaiming "How dare they!" While obviously disagreeing with the views of the GSaW characters, I choose to look at them as an interesting commentary of their time, within their time.
So is the book good or bad? Well, if it's a book, it's rather terrible. But as a manuscript – a fledgling draft of To Kill a Mockingbird – I think it's pretty fascinating. Lines can clearly be traced from one to the other. It's interesting to consider that TKaM is being narrated by a Scout that's roughly the same age as she is in GSaW. I'm still digging through why certain characters were elevated and others weren't. (Interesting fact: Lee had an older brother Edwin ~6 years her senior who, like Jem, died as a young adult.) And I've enjoyed nerding out trying to deconstruct the process of getting to TKaM (a masterpiece) from GSaW (which had promise but clearly needed work).
My bet (and hope) is that Go Set a Watchman becomes something studied and viewed as an origin to what remains Harper Lee's only novel, nothing more. Were it later released with additional in-between drafts on its road to TKaM and offering commentary on each, I'd be even more interested.
The majority of the reviews panning this seem to be upset that it's not melancholy or a downer and doesn't taWhat a fun, enjoyable, interesting read.
The majority of the reviews panning this seem to be upset that it's not melancholy or a downer and doesn't take itself seriously enough. (How could the protagonist make jokes at a time like this?!) But I really think that's part of the story's charm. This is an adventure, not a "thriller", and good-on the author for making it an enjoyable ride.
Should be fun when it's released as a film starring Matt Damon, too....more
Me: "I wish I could give this book less than one star." Glader: "Well you can't." Me: "Is there a reason?" Glader: "Maybe." Me: "No, but seriously. I'd liMe: "I wish I could give this book less than one star." Glader: "Well you can't." Me: "Is there a reason?" Glader: "Maybe." Me: "No, but seriously. I'd like to know why." Glader: "Don't worry about it, greenie." Me: "It seems like a useful question. If I can give a book a full 5-stars, why can't I give it an empty 0-stars?" Glader: "Look, you shucking shank. Maybe I know the answer, and maybe I don't. But I'm not going to tell you because when you find out the answer, you'll totally klunk your pants." Me: "So you're withholding simple, known information for the sake of mystery?" Glader: "Maybe." Me: "But, that's not how mysteries work. Mysteries actually present bits of information and misinformation throughout the story to keep the audience engaged and guessing what the solution might be." Glader: "Maybe it's not supposed to be a mystery then." Me: "Uh, that's entirely what it is. What's the maze? Who built it? How do they get out? The core of the book is a mystery. So yeah, it's meant to be a mystery." Glader: "Listen, greenie klunkity-klunk shuck-shuck-shuckity shanker--" Me: "Do you think those are swear words? Glader: "Klunk right I do!" Me: "Because the other gladers clearly know real swear words and how bodily functions work, and I haven't seen a moment in recorded history when teenage boys would shy away from actual cussing in front of other teenage boys." Glader: "I have a reason, ok. Don't ask, though. I might suddenly reveal why in 100 pages or so. For now: just do what I tell you." Me: "Do whatever you tell me? Without reason? Has any teenage boy ever been ok with that?" Glader: "If I told you the truth, it'd shuck your mind." Me: "Pretty sure it wouldn't." Glader: "In a book where – time and again – the only possible solution turns out to be... the only possible solution? I'm pretty sure it will." Me: "...You do have a point." Glader: "Shuck right I do!" Me: "But that's one of the reasons I want to give it 0-stars." Glader: "Really? That's the only reason? Klunk-yeah!" Me: "Well, there's also the under-developed plot, the flat writing, the mindlessness of every character except for the protagonist (who himself has no personality), how every time a hardship arrives a different character throws up his arms and says how they should all give up--" Glader: "Maybe you should just give up on this review!" Me: "My point exactly. But seriously. If you're stuck in a maze for 2+ years, don't tell me you've explored every possible way out, if –when a new character arrives– everything he does is something nobody else has done before." Glader: "Didn't you at least like the title?" Me: "..." Glader: "What, klunk head?" Me: "To be honest, it sounded about a half-step away from naming the book Connect Four! And from what I've read of the following books: all the build-up of why they're in the maze and it's eventual purpose? Basically gets contradicted time and again and serves no purpose." Glader: "Maybe it does. Maybe it doesn't. But I'm not going to tell you." Me: "Seriously. You're the worst."...more
Stedman has a way with words; there is no doubt of that. The story flows along. The world comes to life with beauty. (This is wSo very disappointing.
Stedman has a way with words; there is no doubt of that. The story flows along. The world comes to life with beauty. (This is where the book eeks out its second star.)
But the story! What a waste! I get it: The world sucks. It is full of pain, loss and disappointment. Sometimes we get more than our fair share of each. Sometimes we find ourselves in impossible situations, often of our own making. And we're stuck. Life really, really sucks. (Really.)
Many books offer stories of hardship and redemption. The fault here is how pitifully disappointing – how formulaic! – these characters and their decisions are. The two central women can only see themselves as victims. Life happens to them, and therefore they can't help but be selfish and close-minded, unable to think for a moment beyond themselves. Except of course to eventually act with some modicum of decency... but naturally they see themselves as martyrs when they do. The man might as well have thrown on sack-cloth and ashes after returning from WWI. He's a doormat who believes any pain and suffering in his life is deserved. (But only for him.) His actions are not sacrificial because they are so inwardly focused; it's self-flagellation. Had he been told that it would make every other character happy, he gladly would have spent the second half of the novel repeatedly punching himself in the face. That's not a spoiler, though it is essentially what happens.
Fear not. The story ending is utterly predictable, and because of it, I'm sure Lifetime will make a movie of it some day soon....more
OK, it's not strictly nonfiction per se... But it's as close to a true crime novel as you'll get.
Our book club searched for the best mystery novels ofOK, it's not strictly nonfiction per se... But it's as close to a true crime novel as you'll get.
Our book club searched for the best mystery novels of all time and this was surprisingly at the top of the list (because none of us had heard of it). Turned out to be a fascinating read focusing on the history of the infamous King Richard III. And quick too. Only around 180 pages.
Give it a quick read... and then look at all the recent news on the very same subject that's just come to the surface. You'll enjoy yourself....more
Ooof. Based on some of the reviews, I had medium-to-high hopes for this book. Maybe it's worth two stars - maybe - but my initial impressions are... eOoof. Based on some of the reviews, I had medium-to-high hopes for this book. Maybe it's worth two stars - maybe - but my initial impressions are... er... bad. EDIT: I've given it some time: one star. (And I'm rounding up.)
While the novel's concept is a decent jumping off point, the author's writing style just killed it for me. ("Killed" in the unfavorable context.) Ishiguro is horribly repetitive, grinding out long, unnecessary sentences creating by far the longest 300 page book I've ever waded my way through. Perhaps a representative sample (made up by me) of the author's writing style will give you an idea? Here's ya go:
"Sally was a dear friend of mine. When I say Sally was a friend, I mean that she and I were the same year at school and spent time together from time to time. Sally and I would often treat one another as friends, doing friendly things of all manner. When I say we did friendly things together, I mean that many of our activities were done in the context of friendship - whether just the two of us or in a group of friends. Our friendship was something that our friendship was based upon, and the friendliness was something that was dear to me while we were in school together."
That. For 300 pages.
It's not depth. It's not subtlety. It's not nuance. It's... dull repetition. If Shakespeare is correct that "Brevity is the soul of wit", Ishiguro just might be a soul-sucking zombie, whose wit died out in some previous work. And you should barricade your home.
Yes, the story's eerie tone helps entice the reader. At first. Think a mash-up of PD James' "Children of Men" and Michael Bay's "The Island" (ouch). But this was never meant to be the focus of the story. (Readers expecting/waiting for a big "A-ha!" moment -- due to the story's setup -- will be disappointed; this is not The Sixth Sense or Witness for the Prosecution.) Rather, this book is intended as a longgggggggg, slowwwwwwww, blunt-force trauma commentary on individuality, racial/class divisions, and how nasty school children can be to one another. Unfortunately, any subtlety is maddeningly blown apart by -- have I mentioned it before? -- the author's repeated insistence to have his narrator repeat herself right after she's done restating what she's just said a few times. (She's boring.)
Sadly (yes, "for me"), this came off as yet another "No matter who you are, life is bleak and sucks... and then we all die" tale with little redeeming value beyond spurring me toward an even greater appreciation for Hemingway. Depth AND brevity? Good on ya, Ernest....more
Diving headfirst into this book, I found myself reminded quite regularly of JUNO.
Problem: I hated Juno. That may come as sacrilege to many, but (theDiving headfirst into this book, I found myself reminded quite regularly of JUNO.
Problem: I hated Juno. That may come as sacrilege to many, but (the movie) continually sounded as if all the characters - especially the title character - were trying to sound smarty-smart-smart (technical term) just so we could bask in how smarty-smart-smart Diablo Cody was. It oozed (maybe even literally) of trying too hard. That and Juno wasn't all that likeable... Unless "likeable" is a synonym for snarky. I'm bad with 3 syllable words.
I digress. A good bit. Back to the book. (Spoiler Alert: The similarities start and end with that first whiff of Juno-ness.)
Yes, this lovely little book is chock-full of characters (teens and adult) who have an uncanny ability for the snappiest of comments and comebacks. Fortunately, that's just the surface. There's a deeper, more honest, more thoughtful layer beneath the snappy frosting. As much as Hazel is drawn to that depth when found in Gus, so too the heart of the book is uncovered when it allows itself to be honest, not trying overly hard with the snappiness.
Really quite a good book, tackling some tough issues -- whether or not you're a young adult.
Four stars from me. We'll see how it settles in my brain machine. Might upgrade to 5.
(Meanwhile, it's worth checking out John Green's work on YouTube. Rounded out my appreciation for him and his work. Just watch out for the Mongols!)...more
I'm guessing this is going to end up being Michael Crichton's last novel. Probably. Given he was in the midst of writing it when he passed away, I gueI'm guessing this is going to end up being Michael Crichton's last novel. Probably. Given he was in the midst of writing it when he passed away, I guess there could be additional "in development" opportunities.
That said, it was fun, buttered popcorn novel I've come to expect from the late Mr. Crichton. As close to Classic Crichton as any of his last 5 books or so, which I thought were pretty average. If you grew up enjoying his style, definitely give him one last read....more