Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Pre-Reading Thoughts for Harper Lee's GO SET A WATCHMAN

Years ago, I read TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. I loved the book. Harper Lee's GO SET A WATCHMAN, set 20 years after MOCKINGBIRD took place, is released today. It is said that WATCHMAN was written before MOCKINGBIRD. On top of that, rumors of a third book have been circulating. 

From skimming early reviews, I've learned that MOCKINGBIRD'S beloved attorney Atticus Finch, who nobly sought acquittal for an African-American man falsely accused of rape, re-emerges in WATCHMAN now as a man who attends a KKK meeting and makes bigoted remarks about African-Americans.      


For this reason, people have not been shy to express on social media their apprehensions about reading the book. It's understandable that some Atticus fans want to preserve the godlike image they have of him. But I myself can often read about flawed characters, as long as they're well-written. What I am often curious about when I encounter such a character is why they are the way they are, even if I don't agree with who they are. I want to know how Atticus became Bizarro Atticus…Or has he always been this way? *Shudder*

What I find troubling are comments out there unfairly scoffing at Harper's "first draft," possibly her first book writing effort. Anyone who has ever tried to be a master at anything should be inspired to learn that the author of one of our great American novels didn't achieve this on her first try. She, like most of us, applied the "wash, rinse, and repeat" approach to her work. MOCKINGBIRD came from that.

I plan to read GO SET A WATCHMAN.

I don't know if I'll read the book as if it's a standalone or a sequel. I also don't know if I'd read the book with consideration to the rumor about a third novel. So I don't know if Atticus may be redeemed...in a future book.  What I do know is that uncertainties such as these stoke interest. 

Do you plan to read GO SET A WATCHMAN? If you know that a character you idolized in one book becomes a totally different person in another book, would you still read the book?

12 comments:

SlimExpectations said...

I really need to read the "to kill a mockingbird' first. I don't even know what it is about. Sad sad me, all my free time is burning in the tv soaps!

Love your blogs name!

Karen Jones Gowen said...

I don't think I'll read it. She wrote it as a first submission and her agent said to revise and resubmit with the pov of the main character as a child rather than a grown woman. The agent recognized those parts of the original mss as the best ones. As an editor I've read too many manuscripts in phases of editing. I don't think this book will be a good one and may hurt Harper Lee's legacy. I think it's something that was done to ride the coattails of To Kill a Mockingbird and make a ton of money for the publisher. And to me it's a shameful exploitation.

Pat Hatt said...

To me it sounds like an easy cash grab.

Chrys Fey said...

I don't think I'll ever read it. I don't want to spoil the story and characters I know and like.

Romance Reader said...

No way! I'm not reading it.

Jennifer R. Hubbard said...

I just wonder if Lee completely rethought Atticus's character, and viewed TKAM as the book that said what she wanted to say. I know I have drastically altered characters from one draft to another. In that sense, Atticus in GSAW would be akin to a first draft, with TKAM being the definitive Atticus.

Or did she consistently see the GSAW Atticus as a valid part of his character, even after TKAM? That's not impossible, and in fact sets up many interesting questions about how we can be noble in parts of our lives and less noble in others--as well as covering the ground where a daughter has to face her parent's flaws, where filial respect fights moral disgust.

Laura Darling said...

I don't know if I'm going to read it or not, but I do think the pre-release chatter has been very interesting!

Sherry Ellis said...

I would like to read the book. It's interesting when characters who are idolized are seen in a more flawed, human light.

Claire Annette said...

Your post has really made me think. I have read To Kill A Mockingbird many times and always gain new insight. I just don't know if I want to read Go Set a Watchman.
This is a really interesting article. I'm not convinced that Harper lee really wanted this book published:
http://www.newrepublic.com/article/122290/suspicious-story-behind-publication-go-set-watchman

Stephanie Faris said...

It certainly is generating quite a bit of buzz!

Mark Means said...

I've yet to read "To Kill A Mockingbird", so I'm a bit behind. I think it's....odd...how some get bent out of shape over the actions of a fictional character. I hear the book is doing well, though.

Shannon Lawrence said...

Hm. I'm not sure what to think about it all, but my TBR pile is big enough already. I'm uncomfortable with people saying she didn't want this book published, so I'd rather not read it if that's the case.

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