Will’s review of Go Set a Watchman (To Kill a Mockingbird, #2) > Likes and Comments

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message 1: by Maria (new)

Maria  Larios hi will why cant u answer back?

message 2: by Will (new)

Will Byrnes I do. Check your messages.

message 3: by Maria (new)

Maria  Larios I see them. Sorry.

message 4: by Alisha (new)

Alisha Ali I'm very skeptical about reading this one. Did you feel like the book was dealing with the same characters or alternate versions that may exist in very similar yet parallel universes?

message 5: by Will (new)

Will Byrnes Scout/Jean Louise is very much the same person, but we see the story in two times, both from her 26-year-old self and as a child growing up in Maycomb. Aunt Alexandra is much harsher here than in Mockingbird, and the biggest difference is Atticus. He is idealized in Mockingbird, but, while retaining some sense of decency and justice, his racial views are brought out into the light and are discomfiting. The Atticus of Mockingbird may share those values, but they are not obviously present in the final version of the novel.

message 6: by Alisha (new)

Alisha Ali Interesting..thanks

message 7: by Wanda (new)

Wanda Will, personally, I do not believe Atticus is a racist. He never states in To Kill A Mockingbird that he "likes" blacks. Rather, he believes in justice for everyone. Readers, in their minds, held Atticus to be a non-conformist to certain ideals. Additionally, words such as "racist," "hero," etc. are fast becoming overused to describe everyone in every situation.

message 8: by Paul (new)

Paul Nice to see one of the few reviews of the book rather than a rant about what it should have been

message 9: by HBalikov (new)

HBalikov Your skill with phrase and analysis is always appreciated, Will. In this case: "In facing the possibility of rejecting her father and the place in which she became the person she is..."

message 10: by Mike (new)

Mike An outstanding and insightful review, sir. I take away a deeper understanding of what to expect thanks to your analysis.

message 11: by Dori (new)

Dori Savino Lawrence Thank you, Will. I bought this book and it's sitting on my shelf, unread. I wasn't sure I could read Atticus (my childhood idol) the way he was depicted in this novel, possibly shattering my idea of the ideal father and man. With your review close at hand and now wearing a thicker literary skin, I feel I can pick it up and move forward.

message 12: by Will (new)

Will Byrnes Wanda wrote: "Will, personally, I do not believe Atticus is a racist. He never states in To Kill A Mockingbird that he "likes" blacks. Rather, he believes in justice for everyone. Readers, in their minds, hel..."
Gotta disagree. Having read the book, it seems pretty clear to me that Atticus is indeed a racist, however well-meaning he may perceive himself to be. At least one of the things Lee was trying to do was to show what racism looked like in Alabama among respectable people.

message 13: by April (new)

April Cote I have it and can't wait to read it.

message 14: by Bria (new)

Bria Very well done review. I was glad to see how much research and background you put into this. It's very difficult to discuss this book or its topics without laying down some groundwork. And your last paragraph was perfect

message 15: by Will (new)

Will Byrnes Thanks, Bria

message 16: by Naberius (new)

Naberius I agree with Bria. :) I'm still waiting to get my hands on a copy of this, but I'm glad to read your thoughts on it.

message 17: by Lilo (last edited Jul 28, 2015 12:16AM) (new)

Lilo @ Will: I enjoyed your review, as I always enjoy your reviews; they are literary delights.

Yet I will stay away from the book. I won't allow it to spoil my dream of a perfect man and father, in the body of Gregory Peck, one of my favorite actors. Atticus a racist--not for me!

(I read somewhere that Harper Lee, who now lives in a nursing home, did not want this book published. Does anyone know whether this is true?)

message 18: by Will (new)

Will Byrnes It is not true

message 19: by Ivonne (last edited Jul 28, 2015 03:57AM) (new)

Ivonne Rovira The New York Times' Joe Nocera has a scathing account of the making of Go Tell a Watchman. Despite your thoughtful review, Will, I won't be reading what was basically the flawed first draft of To Kill a Mockingbird.

message 20: by Will (last edited Jul 28, 2015 03:51PM) (new)

Will Byrnes I found Nocera's column disingenuous. Would he have publishers exist solely to provide free content to the world? Would he have them not promote their product to their market, declining to use the tools at their disposal? For good or ill, publishing is a business and is engaged in making a profit. Nocera's aspersions aside, Harper Lee ok'd the publishing of GSaW. People do change their minds on occasion. Should the book have been kept under lock and key because it was not a final version? What if, say, an early version of another classic came to light, Huckleberry Finn, or Moby Dick? Would that not be of interest to the reading public? It seems to me that Nocera conflates the actions of Lee's lawyer with the merit of the book itself, and tosses in a personal distaste for Rupert Murdoch, no one's favorite person, to continue what has been an ongoing NY Times assault on the book. Would he have written this column had it been Knopf that published the book? Doubtful. Is it a great book? Not by a long shot. It is most definitely a 1.0 version. What is remarkably clear is that the direction in which Tay Hohoff pointed Harper Lee led her to a literary promised land. Sometimes it is a worthwhile thing to see not only where a story ends up but the place from which it began.

message 21: by Lela (new)

Lela Thank you for such a thoughtful, well-expressed review. You made me realize why I started to read this book but haven't gone back. It has nothing to do with the racist Atticus. Well, yes, I suppose it does, but in a different way. Just as when I read Ruby, I am uncomfortable because part of this book details my young life and the racism in my own family of decent, loving people. It is so hard to know the parent(s) you love believe and speak ideas you find abhorrent. I will read it. I just have to let myself grieve as I do.

message 22: by Roshio (new)

Roshio I have been in my young life so disillusioned by people I called heroes who ended up spouting racist sexist or homophobic views. Hence u genuinely feel that in a way it's an important lesson for us to learn and showing Atticus to be racist is quite brilliant in my opinion. I haven't read It yet but I do look forward to reading it.

message 23: by Jeffrey (new)

Jeffrey Keeten Powerful review Will! I've already decided that I won't read it. I'm going to keep Atticus Finch firmly balanced on the pedestal I placed him on 32 years ago. When I was six :-)okay...okay 16, gees the years go by.

message 24: by Petergiaquinta (new)

Petergiaquinta Wanda wrote: "He never states in To Kill A Mockingbird that he "likes" blacks. Rather, he believes in justice for everyone."

Wanda's is an oversimplification of the Atticus character in Mockingbird that I am hearing and reading in many a discussion thread and review on GoodReads. A close reading of Mockingbird reveals Atticus to be a rather exemplary man regarding race as well as justice. There are numerous points in the text that bear this out, but I would direct you to reread Chapter 9 in particular. Atticus tells his daughter not to use the term "nigger," a word that he deems "common." When he is explaining to Scout why he is taking the case, he says it impacts him "personally," which seems to go beyond the broader, more general appeal of "justice." He tells his brother (and yes, Uncle Jack has an important role in Mockingbird as well, although his character has been toned down a bit), "Why reasonable people go stark raving mad when anything involving a Negro comes up, is something I don't pretend to understand." And most telling is his great hope, expressed again to his brother, that he can raise his children and get them through the trial, "without catching Maycomb's usual disease."

So this is what saddens me, Will, about Watchman, a book that should never have been published, especially in the form it has been, presented to the reading public as a sequel to Mockingbird. And it's because I'm finding so many readers right now who seem to be justifying their own prejudice based on what they find the Atticus of Watchman saying in this second book.

Thus to me it's abhorrent to think about how this weak rough draft of an author who has arguably done more than any other writer at helping spread tolerance and open mindedness in the second half of the Twentieth Century could be appropriated by racists as a justification of their personal prejudices. I think the Atticus Finch of Mockingbird would call that a "sin."

message 25: by Will (new)

Will Byrnes Jeffrey wrote: "Powerful review Will! I've already decided that I won't read it. I'm going to keep Atticus Finch firmly balanced on the pedestal I placed him on 32 years ago. When I was six :-)okay...okay 16, gees..."
I am sure many will do the same

message 26: by Will (new)

Will Byrnes Petergiaquinta wrote: "Wanda wrote: "He never states in To Kill A Mockingbird that he "likes" blacks. Rather, he believes in justice for everyone."

Wanda's is an oversimplification of the Atticus character in Mockingbi..."

I really should re-read Mockingbird to be better able to respond. It has been a while since I last read it.

As for racist appropriating things for their own use, it is a daily occurrence and nothing peculiar to the release of this book.

And as for this being presented to the public as a sequel, here is the beginning text from Harper's page for Watchman:
A historic literary event: the publication of a newly discovered novel, the earliest known work from Harper Lee, the beloved, bestselling author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning classic, To Kill a Mockingbird.
Originally written in the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman was the novel Harper Lee first submitted to her publishers before To Kill a Mockingbird. Assumed to have been lost, the manuscript was discovered in late 2014
If people view it as a sequel that is their error, not that of the publisher.

message 27: by Lori (new)

Lori you write the best reviews. I read Go Set A Watchman too. but you really explained the book well.

message 28: by Map (new)

Map To all who think Atticus is a saint, go back and read TKAM. The paternalism is there on the page, as is the subtle (and not so subtle) racism. We readers put him on that pedestal. Mockingbird was set in the 1930s, when African Americans "knew their place" and were not a threat to the white power structure headed by men like Atticus. People like Atticus could afford to be their full generous selves. Fast forward twenty years to Watchman, and the Modern Civil Rights movement has begun. No longer are African Americans willing to suffer in silence. They have fought bravely in two wars, among many achievements. They are bravely beginning to stand up for their rights. Now, they are a "threat" and we get to see a full, rounded portrait of Atticus, an elderly white man who feels threatened by the changes happening around him. The book is not just a portrait of a small Southern town at this time, it is also, like Mockingbird, a coming of age story, as Jean Louise fully comes into herself as an adult, separate--and different--from her father. The Atticus of Mockingbird is not incompatible with the Atticus of Watchman. But you have to read the book to actually see this hard truth, and what it means not only for this character, but in our real world.

message 29: by Petergiaquinta (new)

Petergiaquinta @Will

No, this is a sin of commission by the publishers. Look at the cover of the American release. It uses the same font as Mockingbird, the tree from Mockingbird, and a mockingbird in flight on the back. The big print on the inside of the dust jacket calls it "a landmark new novel set two decades after her beloved Pulitzer Prize-winning novel." You can't call that anything but a cash grab by greed heads marketed to the public as a sequel. I'd go even farther and call it elder abuse.

message 30: by Petergiaquinta (new)

Petergiaquinta @Map

You are right about the mistaken way some people are relegating Atticus to the status of saint in Mockingbird, but anyone familiar with the book and not the movie knows he is not a saint, although he is an exemplary human being. Nonetheless, he fails to defend Tom Robinson; he fails to protect his children; he has a tendency to ignore and excuse human beings' potential for evil. He's blindly idealistic and even tries to excuse away the existence of the Klan to Scout. Atticus is a great father figure in Mockingbird, as well as a flawed human being. But he worries about the way he has raised his kids. He may even see himself as a failure in this regard.

But it's an error to say this Atticus of Mockingbird "is not incompatible with the Atticus of Watchman." There has been no attempt by the author to create a compatibility between the two. Watchman is a flawed rough draft and its Atticus has been reworked into the Atticus we know. And therefore the Atticus of Watchman should not exist, if we are talking about continuity or compatibility. And one of the greatest flaws in Watchman is that there is nothing in This unfortunate "new" book that would account for the differences between these two Atticuses.

message 31: by Will (new)

Will Byrnes Petergiaquinta wrote: "@Will

No, this is a sin of commission by the publishers. Look at the cover of the American release. It uses the same font as Mockingbird, the tree from Mockingbird, and a mockingbird in flight on ..."

So there should have been no reference to Mockingbird on the cover of GSaW? Have you never seen books by the same author sporting similarly designed covers? The only reason this book is of such great public interest, and it most certainly is, is the fact of it being an earlier version of a familiar classic. There is no dishonesty there. It is indeed set two decades later and, as no one other than those involved in the publication of Mockingbird and people close to Lee had seen this book before, it is very much a new book to the public. Certainly the considerable publicity surrounding the release, at least the reports that had their facts straight, made it eminently clear that this was an early version of Mockingbird, not a sequel. People who believed otherwise were not being misled by the publisher, but possibly by some elements in the media, easily corrected by actually reading Harper's promotional material about the book. And yes, I most definitely can call it something other than a cash grab by greed heads. It's called marketing. The book may not be a Pulitzer candidate, but it definitely has merit and can indeed be read on its own. It offers a very interesting, illuminating look at racism in a southern town facing frightening changes. But it's primary interest is as the earliest version of Mockingbird. There is no elder abuse going on here. Lee may be old but she her wits about her, has been aware of what the plans were for Watchman, and ok'd them. People are allowed to change their minds.

message 32: by Will (new)

Will Byrnes Lori wrote: "you write the best reviews. I read Go Set A Watchman too. but you really explained the book well."
Thanks, Lori

message 33: by Vivian (new)

Vivian Okay, I will read it now. I wasn't going to read Watchman because I didn't want it to ruin my image of Atticus and Jem. I wanted to marry Atticus and I thought I was Jem. I guess I better grow up. Thanks, Will--excellent review.

message 34: by Petergiaquinta (new)

Petergiaquinta I think you're being gullible here, Will. Alice Lee has been the public voice of her younger sister for decades, and when she came out a few years back with the statement that Harper Lee was in bad health and would sign anything put in front of her, it's easy to infer what occurred after Alice's death regarding this manuscript that suddenly, magically came to light. That is greed, and what's been happening to Harper Lee over the last few years regarding this manuscript, Mockingbird's copyright, and her privacy (regarding the Mills book) is really too bad.

And no, Watchman can't stand on its own merits as its own book. Without Mockingbird it would never have been published, which is exactly the case in the '50s when it was nixed by a number of publishers. On its own, it's a ragged, poorly written manuscript that clunks along with fairly shallow characterization and way too much tell. And, on its own, the book provides little insight into why Jean Louise is so shocked at what she finds Atticus to be. On its own, there's very little in the book to show the reader why Atticus is so revered by Scout. On its own, the book is a mess only worth reading as a historical curiosity, a window into the writing process of Harper Lee.

And on its own, even the discussion of race is pretty lame. It's the same tired arguments you routinely heard in the Fifties and you still hear today. The book doesn't provide anything interesting or new to that discussion. It's treatment is about as poignant or relevant as The Magic Treehouse Goes to Selma, which isn't a real book but would be about as interesting as Watchman, taken on its own merits.

message 35: by Lela (new)

Lela To Map - thank you! A very well thought-out defense and one I totally agree with! Sometimes we let our own literary prejudices get in the way and don't try to place things in context and perspective. Of course, we all make judgements, but it's good for us to step back from our own point of view for a minute & actually consider what we know to be true and what we surmise or have heard. I, also, think the discussions alone are worth the publishing of the book!

message 36: by Steve (new)

Steve Will, you're at the top of your powers with this one! You've summarized it with exactly what we needed to know, put it into just the right context, and concluded quite fairly, it seems, that this is a worthy addition. I'm one of the many who bristles at the prospect of a tarnished Atticus, but if I can read this with eyes similar to your own, I think I'll be OK. For one, as you point out, we can make an interesting study of the editing process itself -- how 1.0 was altered and improved to make the much loved 2.0. Also, if I'm able, I'd like to read this as though it had different characters independent of Mockingbird. That would surely help drive home your point about Watchman being more about JLF reconciling her heritage with her views, and less about how Atticus et al. may have morphed over time.

message 37: by Will (new)

Will Byrnes Petergiaquinta wrote: "I think you're being gullible here, Will. Alice Lee has been the public voice of her younger sister for decades, and when she came out a few years back with the statement that Harper Lee was in bad..."

Looks like I will have to add gullible to my list of personal attributes.

message 38: by Cyn (new)

Cyn I just finished the book and loved it for what it was. FYI Scout also reveals racist beliefs in that she notes to her uncle that you still don't see many intermarriages in New York and "I wouldn't marry a negro" or whatever the quote was. If you don't believe in intermarriage you are a racist. So she still needed to come to terms with some things herself. A heartbreaking scene in GSaW is when Scout goes to see Calpurnia and as she leaves asked her "Did you hate us?" And Calpurnia nods "no". But now Cal is dealing with her own heartbreak and mixed emotions. To say that the South then was a powder keg is an understatement. But look at events today. Have we progressed that much? Human emotions are so complex and the way Harper Lee captures them is genius. That's why I loved this book. Yes, the NAACP gets a rough rap. But Americans are by nature a stiff necked lot and we don't like to be pushed or told what to do. Obviously though, the South still had some growing and changing to do.

I would say to anyone considering reading GSaW, don't push it aside when your notion of a noble Atticus is blasted apart. Read it to the end. The last few pages hold the key to the complexity of human nature and our tremulous grasp on even this present day society. Dr. Finch is a gem. And Atticus is still a good man, just myopic in his views because of the time and place where he lives.

I give it 4 stars only because I, not having been as well read as Dr. Finch or Jean Louise didn't get the references they loved to bandy about.

Read it. Don't go on someone else's opinion. There's wisdom there. Not so much in the characters themselves but as a time capsule from Maycomb Alabama circa 1960.

message 39: by Christina (new)

Christina Superb review. Thank you! I have been leery of this book. Now I'm excited to be near the top of the library waiting list.

message 40: by ellis (new)

ellis read the book before your review and, immediately after finishing, dove in to your review. lots of hype around this because Atticus is racist, but are we really surprised in light of setting? people refusing to read it because it may (and probably should) chafe their opinion of him are probably the same people who cannot admit this country was built and operate on a platform of white supremacy. there's a lot to be gleaned from scout's experience in this novel. thank you for your thorough and well researched review.

message 41: by Will (new)

Will Byrnes Thanks Ellis

message 42: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca Spot on review. I just finished the book and whole heartedly agree with you.

message 43: by Will (new)

Will Byrnes Great Minds

message 44: by Vivian (new)

Vivian Will, I read GSW because of your encouragement and review. I loved it even though it did force me to round out my opinion of Atticus. Having lived in a small Texas (very southern) town since 1968, I find it difficult to tolerate some of the spoken and unspoken views I have seen most of my life. And again I relate to JL, I had to question my own beliefs and learn to stand up for them--it's difficult when many (less now) around me think differently, and they don't even know it. This town, however, has offered me a successful, good, kind, supportive life. I, too, am proud of JL for being blind, awake and true to her Watchman. Thank you!

message 45: by Cindy (new)

Cindy McBride I think you gave an articulate and thought-provoking analysis of this classic, though I'm not entirely in agreement with your conclusions. Nevertheless, great issues such as this should be openly and fearlessly discussed. The one point I always find especially intriguing, however, is the fact that one of America's greatest strengths, i.e., our determination to "right social wrongs" (and world history aficionados know that these same issues took significantly longer to be debated and corrected in virtually every other country in which the same problem[s] existed) is also one of its biggest failures; by this I mean that, more often than not, in our zealous and commendable efforts to eradicate injustices and prejudices of ANY kind, we typically tend to swing 180 degrees in the opposite direction, often creating problems of equal or greater magnitude. A classic example of this is today's escalating and pervasive attitude of entitlement, the road to which is paved by our good intentions... and that's only one of many well-meaning "fixes" responsible for a surprisingly large portion of our crippling national debt of nearly $30T. I could rattle off dozens of other examples of monetary (and moral) bankruptcy in which we've mired ourselves, but you get my drift. My apologies for my digression away from a pure review of the subject literature…

message 46: by Will (last edited Sep 02, 2015 11:52PM) (new)

Will Byrnes Oh, you mean the entitlement of public officials to engage the USA in trillion dollar wars of choice, or the entitlement of the superrich to have their taxes slashed by right-leaning administrations while their public official tools continue to spend gazillions on defense? In that case, I agree entirely. But I am not sure sure I agree about our zeal to right wrongs. Slavery was abolished in England, for example, in 1833, Chile in 1823, Bolivia in 1831, and so on. Women were ceded the right to vote by Constitutional Amendment in the USA in 1920, trailing such notably freedom-loving places as Russia, Azerbaijan, Poland and many, many others. Frankly, I am more concerned about the entitlement public officials seem to feel in many parts of the USA to deny the people's right to vote, through gerrymandering, through absurd voting requirements, and, when necessary, by simply refusing to count the votes. I am also concerned about the entitlement the wealthy feel to continue paying what taxes they do manage to pay at rates far reduced from rates that were once the law of the land, while the rest of us, those who have to work for a living, are paying taxes with our food money. So yeah entitlement is indeed a big problem.

message 47: by Lela (new)

Lela Perfect response, Will. I'm in total agreement. (Don't look so surprised!)

message 48: by Will (new)

Will Byrnes description


message 49: by Lela (new)

Lela HarHar! ;-)

message 50: by MichelleG (new)

MichelleG A very interesting and powerful review, it's thought provoking to think that Harper Lee would intentionally humanise the image of Atticus, and show the world he is a mere human, with flaws and subject to racial prejudicial views, sadly like many of that era.

I confess that I am a little disappointed that this happened. I really loved the idea of the doting, loving father, with uncompromising morals and an innate goodness. When I first read this in school (many years ago now), Atticus became the standard to which all fathers, and people, would strive to be. It's very hard to accept that he was all along simply... ordinary.

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