Go Set a Watchman Go Set a Watchman discussion

My Review

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Philip I've just finished reading Harper Lee's Go Set A Watchman. I had read To Kill A Mockingbird when I was doing my Junior Cert in secondary school, 18 years ago, and I was amazed and appreciative (as a gay person) that someone had written a book like this and seen society in all its faults and glories. Parts of To Kill A Mockingbird stayed with me that even up until last year I was only realising the meaning behind parts of the plot. I now work in social care for people with intellectual disabilities (which gave me more understanding to Boo Radley's character I might add) and I have to say Harper Lee's new book Go Set A Watchman is genius!

I intended to give this book four stars as there are times where I felt I didn't know who was saying what and there are pages that end mid sentence - instead of the next page carrying on the sentence it begins with a completely new one which definitely left me feeling I had missed some or part of the characters exchange. (Pages 253, 266, 268, 277 are of note regarding this).
However after seeing all the reviews and hearing of the back lash from critics (that only made me want to read the book more which I think is the purpose of such negative critique), I decided to give the book, apprehensively, 5 stars. May be I'm not getting something that has people so intolerant to the book but I think this book is so appropriate for this time, especially for America and its current war against terrorism. Like therapy hearing the truth about ourselves can hurt but we learn to take perspective and work at changing our faults even when we don't agree with what other people are seeing and saying.

I can't quote words that a character in this book has said and say it expresses the direct views of the author because obviously that's not the case; characters communicate and define the overall plot of a book and its message. People find it hard to accept just like Jean Louise that Atticus is imperfect and its our fault for expecting him to be perfect. As a gay man I am aware of the ignorance and prejudice of people in society and I am aware of work colleagues, acquaintances, friends, neighbours, or even family who just aren't there yet with allowing gay people have their rights - and I understand that because I'm human too and I don't accept everything either like abortion or euthanasia. I won't live my life by these people's lukewarm gay views but I won't judge them (a christian trait?).

If anything this book expresses to me the history of black America and the struggles they had to overcome to gain equality. This book is set in a time where the next generation of liberated black people of America were exerting their freedom and not conforming like their elders were forced to do. Imagine being a slave and raring your kids in a society that now treats them equal?! That must of felt daunting.

I hope I've explain myself well and given a worthy review. Thanks to Harper Lee for showing my 15 year old self through To Kill A Mockingbird that she too seen the inadequacies of society and the unfairness that people then and to this day have to live under with hope that one day a black person will be voted President of America, or in a predominantly Catholic country where paedophile priests are being confused with being gay, can vote for Gay equality. We're definitely ready for this book and its message without being intolerant. Not publishing this book would have helped no one.

message 2: by Pat (new) - rated it 3 stars

Pat Empson A local bookstore in our city has offered refunds to all who bought this book. They felt that the publicity was misleading and that people expected more from Harper Lee. I think that whenever you buy a book you take what you get. If refunds were offered I would sure have a lot of them for books I was disappointed in!

Philip Hi Pat - I actually read about that in the newspaper here in Ireland. I think its foolish to advertise a book like that and again they set their customers up for disappointment with such advertisements. I feel this book and others like it are really like works of art and therefore should be controversial and if they aren't then its just an average book. I mean its the bookshops prerogative to make money, its the authors prerogative to communicate a message. Those values don't go hand in hand. Did you like the book?

Philip Philip wrote: "Hi Pat - I actually read about that in the newspaper here in Ireland. I think its foolish to advertise a book like that and again they set their customers up for disappointment with such advertisem..."

Ah I see you gave it 3 star :)

Philip Hi Kelly thanks for your reply and valid points. Yes it was bad of the publishers to publish a book from such a reputable author with such silly errors. That just proves that the authorship is the visionary artist whereas the publishers and shop keepers are just making money. (No offence meant to publishers and sellers but I think these errors showed a rush was made in order to "cash in" here).

I too found it hard to believe that Atticus... didn't turn his back on Calpurnia exactly but I realised he was an employer of a black woman and also that Calpurnia never felt she was anything but a black woman working for a white family. Then again Kelly it's not that hard to believe because To Kill A Mockingbird was told through Scout / Jean Louise's eyes, the eyes of a child who's mother figure was Calpurnia. The message in Go Set A Watchman for me is that a person can be intelligent, articulate, generous, considerate, professional, for the community, believes in God but can have views that are considered racist or prejudiced. Maybe we can't always refere to it as rascism or prejudice because people are coming from their own view points and we are entitled to learn and progress from our current beliefs - that might mean realising "oh people with intellectual disabilities should have the right to vote or have their own children, or no I don't agree with abortion or yes I think gay people should have equal rights". Society today still has issue with these points and all of us would have our own concerns on these issues too but we will learn and it's not wrong to make our own stand. We should try be understanding though.

Atticus seen the position/level that black people were at in Maycomb (uneducated and given an absolute freedom) and he couldn't understand how these emancipated black people could now make decisions that could change laws and redefine social habits. I think Atticus looked at people as individuals who made their own decisions including mistakes without judgement but felt that the framework of society and laws should be protected from and for these people. Simply put we all should have an ideal that we are striving for and for black people what was their ideal because up to now they were slaves and thought of as such. So at that time black people were beginning to define their role in society and of course white people took note of all the bad things - e.g. Zeebo has five wife's, black men overcrowded a car and knocked down and killed a white man, etc.

In Go Set A Watchman a group of black, presumably men, had a car and they overcrowded it and were driving dangerously through Maycomb much to the concern of Atticus - but in the book this really highlighted that black people could now own their own car. To Jean Louise coming from New York black people drove cars so it was no big deal.

There is such a lot to say about this book that just validates to me how great it is and I think what I'm trying to conclude with is that I don't see Atticus as a bad rascist but as a man who, in his time, doesn't know where this is all going and he's concerned for the future. These are valid concerns I'm sure and ironically look at America today - viewing extremists actions as wrong and using this to validate why they should enter "Muslim" countries to ensure they are not a threat to America.

Philip Kelly wrote: "Philip i think you've hit the nail on the head. You are so right. The purpose of this book IS to show how educated, unbiased, fair individuals can still be in a tight spot during times of transitio..."

Wow thank you so much for that Kelly my confidence has gone through the roof. I was expecting someone to come back at me and reveal where I've totally got it wrong. You know when I was in school reading To Kill A Mockingbird I used to be amazed at how a book could have so many meanings and bring to the fore so many different characters in society, all in the one plot. I wondered how my English teachers were able to read into these books to reveal all these hidden meanings and wished I could do that. I feel I've just done that with Go Set A Watchman so thank you.

I see you have written a book! Congratulations and I hope it has brought you good things. It is a dream of mine to write a book too so hopefully some day it will come true. I'll keep a mental note to read Being Norah - it sounds interesting.

message 7: by [deleted user] (last edited Aug 22, 2015 06:07AM) (new)

Philip wrote: "Then again Kelly it's not that hard to believe because To Kill A Mockingbird was told through Scout / Jean Louise's eyes, the eyes of a child who's mother figure was Calpurnia. The message in Go Set A Watchman for me is that a person can be intelligent, articulate, generous, considerate, professional, for the community, believes in God but can have views that are considered racist or prejudiced. "

One thing about this point, Philip.... TKAM is narrated by an adult. It's one of the things that makes TKAM so complex. The narrator is an adult Scout telling the story of her childhood. There's, in my opinion, a melding of the child and the adult in that narration.

Honestly, I have a really hard time taking GSAW seriously. I read the first chapter when it was released early that Friday and didn't hear Lee's voice in the writing. It was only one chapter, I told myself, but I was concerned.

Then, .... As I read and as Harper Lee's voice was, more often than not, absent, in my opinion, I quickly became fixated upon a word. Auditorium.... Their church/sanctuary is repeated referred to as an auditorium throughout GSAW. Here's an example....

"There’s nothing like a blood-curdling hymn to make you feel at home, thought Jean Louise. Any sense of isolation she may have had withered and died in the presence of some two hundred sinners earnestly requesting to be plunged beneath a red, redeeming flood.... She was sitting beside her aunt in the middle pew on the right side of the auditorium; her father and Dr. Finch sat side by side on the left, third row from the front" (92).

With visions of Joel Olsteen dancing before my eyes, I began wondering if a Southern author would really refer to the church sanctuary as an "auditorium" in the 1950's.... I don't see it. Are there any Southerners here? Was church and the church sanctuary referred to as an "auditorium" pre-American megachurches?

I became so fixated upon this that I consulted TKAM, published just two years after this was said to have been taken to a publisher. Harper Lee refers to church and the church sanctuary as "church" in TKAM, not the auditorium. For example, ....

"Calpurnia’s eyes narrowed and I could tell what was going through her mind. 'Cal,' I said, 'you know we’ll behave. We haven’t done anything in church in years.' Calpurnia evidently remembered a rainy Sunday when we were both fatherless and teacherless. Left to its own devices, the class tied Eunice Ann Simpson to a chair and placed her in the furnace room. We forgot her, trooped upstairs to church, and were listening quietly to the sermon when a dreadful banging issued from the radiator pipes, persisting until someone investigated and brought forth Eunice Ann saying she didn’t want to play Shadrach any more – Jem Finch said she wouldn’t get burnt if she had enough faith, but it was hot down there" (133).

Now, .... I don't know what to make of this. I'll likely never know. However, the writing, which sometimes does read like Lee but often doesn't, and the use of this word makes it suspect and difficult for me to take it seriously.

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