Harper Lee’s sequel to To Kill A Mockingbird will be released on July 14, 2015. An excerpt of the first chapter in audio and text can be found here. Around the World in 80 Books reacts to Go Set A Watchman, a novel that takes place 20 years after the events of TKAM.
Stop here if you want to avoid any SPOILERS.
Heather: So much buzz for this book! I’m happy to report that my initial impressions of the first chapter were positive. (Full disclosure, I have not read TKAM since high school so my memory of the characters/ events in that novel is very poor. I’ve decided to power read the book this weekend in preparation for the sequel.) That being said, I know people have come out as super critical of the work/ author’s state of mind/ time period(?), but I am ignoring all that in this first impression, I’d rather have the whole story to do any critical analysis. I was drawn to Jean Louise “Scout” Finch’s overall tone and her narrative direction. She is 26 and she’s not looking to settle down, though her friend/boyfriend, Henry, may have other ideas. That spoke to me as someone who lives in New York and travels to a southern state to visit my family twice a year, I can definitely understand her reluctance. And maybe that’s why my reaction is positive, she still speaks to me (though I have a better understanding of modern technology).
Tqwana: I think the last time I read TKAM was my second year of teaching high school, which was probably 10 years ago. I’m not as critical as some about the prose of this novel, though I will say that I found myself skimming through the description of the train ride through Georgia into Alabama. It isn’t about that for me. And why should we expect a grown-up Jean Louise to “speak” with the same wonder and innocence of a 6-year old Scout? I’m here for the nostalgia of TKAM, one of my favorite books from high school. What truly stood out to me and what I’m having trouble coming to grips with is the fate of the characters from the original novel. Atticus Finch is human? How am I suppose to cope with an – albeit – fictional man who seemed so strong and indestructible, falling victim to a debilitating disease? And what of Jem? One hopes that Lee expands on how Jem just “dropped dead in his tracks.” With that in mind, I can understand how Watchman might be a disappointment to some. The wonder is gone. Doesn’t mean that we still can’t be moved.
“In the years when he was away at the war and the University, she had turned from an overalled, fractious, gun-slinging creature into a reasonable facsimile of a human being.”
“The possessor of the right to kiss her on the courthouse steps was Henry Clinton, her lifelong friend, her brother’s comrade, and if he kept on kissing her like that, her husband.”