Reading for Me

The Books I Have Read…..Just for Me

#20: Go Set a Watchman (Harper Lee)

on August 17, 2015

Anyone who has ever asked me to name my favorite book has gotten the same answer since the summer before leaving for Pepperdine. That’s when I fell in love with To Kill a Mockingbird. I always lamented the fact that Harper Lee had only written one book. My passion for the classic novel was passed on to Jacquelyn when we shared the book many years later. Imagine our excitement when the announcement was made that a new novel by Harper Lee would be released. Go Set a Watchman was an immediate choice for the Reading with Jacqs project.

I had mixed emotions while reading Go Set a Watchman. Perhaps I was being influenced by the plethora of reviews that have appeared in the media. Perhaps I was saddened to witness beloved characters grappling with issues of racism and prejudice that didn’t conform to my expectations based on my initial encounter with them in To Kill a Mockingbird. By the time I finished Watchman, my views had changed — and for that, I am very thankful. Many have proclaimed that the aged Atticus Finch is a racist. I am not so certain about that. Instead, I see a man who is struggling to deal with changes occurring around him as he tries to balance his personal beliefs with the supposed reality he currently sees. He is a man torn.

Jean Louise is a woman of deep conviction. She is certain of her beliefs and feels things deeply. Her passion is at times explosive. Her personal struggle is one that pits the acceptance of Northern society against the traditions and heritage of her Southern roots. Scout is a woman desperately trying to hold on to her innocent memories of childhood while coming to terms with the imperfections of those she has idolized since her earliest days.

Go Set a Watchman is not Harper Lee’s best writing; that title will forever be reserved for Mockingbird. While the current novel lacks her earlier polish, powerful passages still find their way into the text and root deep into our souls. I intentionally did not mark passages in my first reading of Watchman; I wanted to allow Lee’s story to consume me without analyzing the material. However, a few sentences struck me with their beauty and power. Here is one of my favorites:

“Prejudice, a dirty word, and faith, a clean one, have something in common: they both begin where reason ends.” (Go Set a Watchman, p. 270)

Go Set a Watchman is not without fault. It needed an editor’s hand to polish it to its full potential. Despite its problems, this novel is truly a diamond in the rough that will be treasured for years to come.

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