Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Go Set A Watchman: A Humble Book Review From a Humble Reader

Writing a review for this book was a bit challenging. First because of so much controversy that surrounds the book's publication and secondly the many bad reviews the book is getting. In a nutshell people are pissed about some of their favorite characters turned into something completely different from what they thought they were.  It is no secret that Atticus Finch the beloved father of  Scout in Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird is now a huge racist in Go Set A Watchman and that's not the only thing that has fans of the original book upset. As a reader I find that what most people are upset about the book is that a hero, like Atticus who stood up for a black man accused of rape in To Kill A Mockingbird, isn't as perfect as they thought he was and the same goes for some of the characters in the book. I too was shocked when I first heard that Atticus was a racist in the new novel because I remember loving what Atticus stood for and thought of him as a better man. I even went ahead and thought to cancel my preorder of the book for that reason but I thought better than that. And yes To Kill A Mockingbird is one of my favorite novels and unlike most of you, I chose not to read it during high school (because screw the man and how dare they make read a book!). I read To Kill A Mockingbird after high school and I'm glad I did because I appreciated it more. So what do I think of Go Set A Watchman? Before I begin my humble review I should say two things. One: that I choose to read this book despite the controversy surrounding it because I like to judge the book for myself in the end. Two: I consider this novel to be a sequel to Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird. Yes I know that GSAW is supposedly the first draft of TKAM and was later changed into the original work. Despite that I choose to consider this book to be a sequel so this review is coming from that point of view. And why not a sequel? Everything is getting a sequel and a reboot so why not American classics? Star Wars is getting a sequel, it wouldn't surprise me if The Catcher in the Rye got a sequel out of nowhere. Lets get on with the review.

Some of my summer reads with Lego Indy
GSAW is set during the 1950's, The novel begins with Scout now a young woman of 26 and using her birth name of Jean Louise, coming home to Maycomb, Alabama. She comes home and finds things to be different when she left. The reader experiences those changes through Scout as she walks through Maycomb County. Atticus now lives with his sister and aunt to Scout, Alexandra. We also meet Hank who is Atticus' right hand man and childhood friend/ boyfriend of Scout. Yes Scout has a boyfriend which means our Scout is grown up (duh). The plot thickens when Scout starts exploring around her changed town and finds that Atticus is not what she thought he was along with some of the townspeople (racist). The book is easy to read and can be read within 2-3 days with only 278 pages and thick fonts. But let us get down to the good part (or bad part).

Going back to the question: did I like GSAW? I can see why most people dont like it. As I stated in the beginning, the biggest beef most people are having is accepting that heroes aren't perfect. Yes I really enjoyed reading GSAW for many reasons. One of them has to do with Atticus. Atticus is old now suffering from arthritis but the biggest thing is that Atticus is a racist who joins a committee who fights for segregation between the blacks and whites. Atticus believes that "mixing" is wrong and can be the downfall of many things and it is even hinted that he may have been in meetings of the KKK. While I completely do not agree with what Atticus is saying, I liked seeing Atticus not be the hero of this story like in TKAM. This is the heart crushing below die hard fans of TKAM felt and the reader who has read that work feels all the feels through Scout who is crushed to learn the truth behind her father. This makes me think of everyone who said that they would not read GSAW because of Atticus being a racist and all who were crushed about Atticus who was a hero to them who looked up to Atticus; they all felt the crush Scout felt. I wasn't crushed but did see the disappointment through Scout. Here is a little girl who loved and looked up to her father only to find out that he wasn't perfect and it's especially hurtful since Atticus is all Scout has. Dill and Jem are gone and the only connection to Scout's past is Atticus, Aunt Alexandra, Hank and Dr. Finch (Scout's uncle). I liked this part about the book because it teaches us that no matter who our heroes are, they aren't always what they appear to be and aren't perfect. It's like Atticus turned to the Dark Side and Scout has to deal with it. Really heart breaking which I just felt and liked alot.

Another thing I liked about the book was that within all the changes that have happened, Scout is still that lovable tomboy we know from TKAM and then some. Scout is strong and stands up to here father. She has grown (probably because she has lived in New York for a while now) and she knows where she stands in her life and like she says she is colorblind. That can be a good thing for some and bad for others. but Scout knows what she is and that is something I liked.

The writing style of the book feels like it is Harper Lee and immediately sucks you into the world and story. Some parts are shabby but can be overlooked. Some editing could have gone into it which does make it seem like this is a first draft of something that once was and could have been the original. Lee transmits the reader to Scouts childhood and back to the present making things beautiful and even more heartbreaking when we get to the realization of Atticus' change. One part that I just really did not like was the introduction Dr. Finch(the uncle) who I can not remember if he shows up in TKAM. To me Dr. Finch felt out of place like something from Alice in Wonderland. The man is strange and most of the time I didn't know what he was talking about, even Scout expresses her annoyance at her uncle making no to little sense. Near the ending Dr. Finch tries to give Scout some meaningful advice but I felt like I waited to long to hear it and never got anything. I honestly hated the parts with Dr. Finch and that is saying a lot considering this book has many causes to hate. He spoke in riddles and the answer was never there. Maybe that was just me.

I don't know if this book was really Harper Lee's first draft of TKAM or written entirely new or even someone else's writing. But to me it does feel like Lee's own words and the message is strong. Racism is a hot topic in todays society and I feel like GSAW is important. It shows us the nasty sides of what people can become and how we can stand up to them. I don't know if GSAW will be the new TKAM of our generation but it certainly has a strong and emotional message. Will it ever be better than TKAM? Hell no. TKAM is a classic but GSAW is a great read regardless. To me GSAW is a sequel but you the reader can always decide what you make of this read. Reading GSAW I remembered a quote from The Dark Knight when Harvey Dent says "You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain." Atticus is what Dent was saying. Truer words could not have been said from Two-Face himself.

So what do I give GSAM?
 The book has tons of controversy  and as I stated in the beginning people are mad about a hero who isn't what they expected them to be. The book is a great read and I truly enjoyed it. I feel that this book can be strong in many parts while in some it could use a little more work but I'm glad TKAM is the original work. I hated the character of Dr. Finch because he felt out of place but everyone else is good. Here's my rating for

Go Set A Watchman:
8 Koopa Shells out of 10
It's sad and heartbreaking but at the same time shows a real side to things and serves as a reality check.