Go Set a Watchman - Harper Lee

The first thing that you may notice is that my rating is missing. It's deliberate. How can you rate a "book" that should have not been?

I have to reiterate what a lot of reviewers have already said ad nauseam. If you hold To Kill a Mockingbird dear, and not just because it is a wonderful piece of literature, but because you invest your heart in characters...do not read this.

On one hand it's easy to disassociate Go Set a Watchman, from it's...predecessor?...because this duck does not swim like a duck, it does not walk like a duck, it just looks like a duck. Maycomb and (mostly) the same tenants are present, but as shotty half shells of their fleshed out versions in TKaM.

 

If this hadn't been chosen for bookclub, I wouldn't have read it all. I'd understood enough from reviewers to know that it didn't hold the same values as TKaM. That Atticus was different, in a sad way. That the very book itself was not meant to be read and that Harper Lee and her sister spent a lot of years making sure that it wasn't read.

 

So, I chose to look at it as a 'creative process', as one particular article I ran across suggested.

 

But even then, this book was bad.

 

The story opens with Jean Louise (Scout) returning home to Maycomb for a visit. This is the time directly following Brown vs. Board of Education, when the South was changing, changing in ways that Jean Louise could only read about in her New York newspapers. It was a rude awakening for her to see the ramifications of that change in her small town, and you get the distinct feeling that she was painfully naive to its reality. The end of segregation, and the resulting backlash, caused some pretty hurt feelings and a lot of anger.

 

During her 'vacation', the reader experiences Jean Louise's discovery of deep seeded racism and prejudice, sometimes within her own family, along with insightful, and sometimes humorous, flashbacks of her childhood.

 

These flashbacks are the only silver lining in this book, giving us a true glimpse of the path that Harper Lee eventually journey's.  And as a reader who was looking for something to hang my hat on, namely that 'creative process', this was all I had.

 

Jean Louise's present voice is socially awkward and, given her relationships with Henry, Zandra and other towns people, quite unsure of herself. Scout as a child was precocious, curious and caring. Jean Louise as an adult is seemingly cold, tolerant, and dare I say, lost. She seems disconnected from everyone around her, and while she talks about Maycomb being a part of her, you get the feeling it's part of her like a bad parasitic rash.

 

In fact, all of the present day narrative was grossly under written and melodramatic. Especially towards the rushed end when her Uncle Jack talks in weird philosophic circles and Jean Louise rails against her father for deceiving her. Jean Louise, who should be the hero of this piece, comes off bat-shit crazy, quite honestly. And then to turn around and half accept it all. Just, weird.

 

I found that the creative process I was looking for was missing a major piece: a friggin' explanation.

 

I grew up with the understanding that Atticus was modeled after Lee's own father. As this was information from my own dad, this could be inaccurate as I've never researched it myself. But given that, to have Atticus go from villain (in a way) to hero from one book to another makes me really scratch my head. 

 

Oh well. This book served two purposes this week. First, to allow me to converse in bookclub. Second, to tick down another book towards my overall reading goal. And that's about it.