#1 New York Times Bestseller
“Go Set a Watchman is such an important book, perhaps the most important novel on race to come out of the white South in decades." — New York Times
A landmark novel by Harper Lee, set two decades after her beloved Pulitzer Prize–winning masterpiece, To Kill a Mockingbird.
Twenty-six-year-old Jean Louise Finch—“Scout”—returns home to Maycomb, Alabama from New York City to visit her aging father, Atticus. Set against the backdrop of the civil rights tensions and political turmoil that were transforming the South, Jean Louise’s homecoming turns bittersweet when she learns disturbing truths about her close-knit family, the town, and the people dearest to her. Memories from her childhood flood back, and her values and assumptions are thrown into doubt. Featuring many of the iconic characters from To Kill a Mockingbird, Go Set a Watchman perfectly captures a young woman, and a world, in painful yet necessary transition out of the illusions of the past—a journey that can only be guided by one’s own conscience.
Written in the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman imparts a fuller, richer understanding and appreciation of the late Harper Lee. Here is an unforgettable novel of wisdom, humanity, passion, humor, and effortless precision—a profoundly affecting work of art that is both wonderfully evocative of another era and relevant to our own times. It not only confirms the enduring brilliance of To Kill a Mockingbird, but also serves as its essential companion, adding depth, context, and new meaning to an American classic.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
Jean Louise "Scout" Finch—the heroine of the Pulitzer Prize-winning classic To Kill a Mockingbird—is back and, once again, her bright voice and shrewd observations make for rewarding reading. Set in the 1950s, Go Set a Watchman begins with Jean Louise returning home to Maycomb, Alabama, during the height of the Civil Rights movement and making the heartbreaking discovery that her iconic father, Atticus, has morphed into an embittered racist. Despite having been written over 50 years ago, Harper Lee’s second published novel feels incredibly modern, exploring themes that are very much still relevant today.
Reviewed by Louisa ErmelinoThe editor who rejected Lee's first effort had the right idea. The novel the world has been waiting for is clearly the work of a novice, with poor characterization (how did the beloved Scout grow up to be such a preachy bore, even as she serves as the book's moral compass?), lengthy exposition, and ultimately not much story, unless you consider Scout thinking she's pregnant because she was French-kissed or her losing her falsies at the school dance compelling. The book opens in the 1950s with Jean Louise, a grown-up 26-year-old Scout, returning to Maycomb from New York, where she's been living as an independent woman. Jean Louise is there to see Atticus, now in his seventies and debilitated by arthritis. She arrives in a town bristling from the NAACP's actions to desegregate the schools. Her aunt Zandra, the classic Southern gentlewoman, berates Jean Louise for wearing slacks and for considering her longtime friend and Atticus prot g Henry Clinton as a potential husband Zandra dubs him trash. But the crux of the book is that Atticus and Henry are racist, as is everyone else in Jean Louise's old life (even her childhood caretaker, Calpurnia, sees the white folks as the enemy). The presentation of the South pushing back against the dictates of the Federal government, utilizing characters from a book that was about justice prevailing in the South through the efforts of an unambiguous hero, is a worthy endeavor. Lee just doesn't do the job with any aplomb. The theme of the book is basically about not being able to go home again, as Jean Louise sums it up in her confrontation with Atticus: "there's no place for me anymore in Maycomb, and I'll never be entirely at home anywhere else." As a picture of the desegregating South, the novel is interesting but heavy-handed, with harsh language and rough sentiments: "Do you want them in our world?" Atticus asks his daughter. The temptation to publish another Lee novel was undoubtedly great, but it's a little like finding out there's no Santa Claus.
Customer ReviewsSee All
This is the South
I feel a lot like the adult Jean Louise. WIth her, I watched as the God of Atticus became human. I think it must be hard for a lot of people to realize that their idols are fallible. Harper Lee could not have known when she wrote it that To Kill a Mockingbird's characters would become such literary icons and that we, as a culture, would find in Atticus the perfect parent/mentor/pastor/friend. He was not only her moral compass, but our society's.
And it turns out, he was just a man who was a product of his culture and upbringing. I was nervous to read the book. I expected, from everyone's ranting, to find him burning crosses on the front lawn. Instead, we found something much harder: someone we love and admire who hasn't lived up to our ideals.
I understand the rant, but I really appreciated the book. The best parents raise their children to think for themselves. To go into the world with a clear sense of what is right and the knowledge that they will always be loved and will always have a home -- even if it's not a home to which the child can ever really return.
My family gave this to me. My father was my Atticus, and, I've learned through generations of family and friends, he was theirs as well. And I left home. And I learned how different we are. And I learned, even more, how alike we are. And I learned the he probably wasn't as perfect as I thought. And I learned that the REASON we should love people is for their humanity, because -- as I was raised to believe -- in that humanity is their godliness. I know that as certainly as I know that love.
I think it's a good book.
The Scout of TKAM is sassy and stubborn but naïve and the Jean Louise of Watchman is also sassy, stubborn, naïve but "blind" as portrayed in the novel. Many people have claimed that Watchman is a racist novel that destroys the noble kind Atticus Finch and his character. To those people, I say, shame on you and read the book. Most every six year old Alabama girl looks up to and idolizes her father. I did. Scout did as well. The problem with that logic is that children change and so do their parents. Many residents of Alabama have family members who participated in events and ideologies 50 years or more ago that we aren't proud of. We cannot change the actions of those people. Without going into spoilers Atticus, Jean Louise, and all the other characters in TKAM and Watchman live in a time period and in a place where things were different. They could only react to the changing world around them based on the knowledge they had at hand. It's cruel and wrong for people today to place 21st century values on people that lived in that time who were completely unaware of all the events that came later. Society and culture are so affected by the moment, by technology, by our past and present, and by those we trust, sometimes wrongly. Don't believe or judge all those criticizing the book. Read it for yourself and make up your own mind, as have I.
Timeless Issues; Irreverent Culture
She’s all grown up, there no doubt about it. Smoking, drinking and carousing with boys is proof enough of that. But that doesn’t mean she is an adult. Adults cast away idillic shells children once held of others and deal with loss. No one is without faults, but little Scout doesn’t really take that revelation well. Jean Louise has to make that journey to discover her own path, no matter what that takes out of her.
The book is a moving piece that strangely echoes some of the very same issues we know exist today. Even though taking place several decades ago, the struggles are exactly the same. The same race issues minorities still face, and the same issues for women looking to be professionals and have a family too are all percolating today. It seems the old adage rings true: The more things change, the more they stay the same. It seems only some are prepared or agreeable with the speed at which social norms can change. The metaphorical grinding to dirt is really the ideas and essence of whom is being discussed. In the end, it is probably better that some ideas go into the dirt when we end. The people and ideas that remain should further or challenge society to move in the right direction, whatever the right direction ends up being. Reproduce/influence, repeat and so on.