Review: Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee

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“It happened so quickly that her stomach was still heaving. She breathed deeply to quieten it, but it would not stay still. She felt herself turning green with nausea, and she put her head down; try as she might she could not think, she only knew, and what she knew was this:
The one human being she had ever fully and wholeheartedly trusted had failed her; the only man she had ever known to whom she could point and say with expert knowledge, “He is a gentleman, in his heart he is a gentleman,” had betrayed her, publicly, grossly, and shamelessly.”
Harper Lee, Go Set a Watchman


For those of you who don’t know it (you must have lived under a rock if that’s the case) Go Set A Watchman is the sequel to To Kill A Mockingbirdan award-winning novel by the amazing Harper Lee. After 55 years it’s been decided (there are still questions if Lee authorized the publication) to publish the sequel which was actually the first draft of To Kill A Mockingbird. The title comes from Isaiah 21:6: “For thus hath the Lord said unto me, Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth.” It follows Jean Louise Finch’s journey in finding her own Watchman.


Contains spoilers!

When I started reading this book, I knew of the controversial opinions and reviews people had about it but I didn’t allow myself to be affected by them. Also, I didn’t really see this book as a sequel to TKAM just because GSAW had so many flashbacks which made me think of it as a prequel to TKAM. I hope you all read this book without any biased opinions.

I must say, I didn’t exactly expect this book to develop as it did but I am very happy about it. So many people have negative thoughts on this book and I completely understand why.

The first 100 pages were slow but I didn’t mind because Lee had to describe Scout and how she developed over the years which was a lot to take in. After those 100 pages, I felt like I was being transported back to when I read TKAM because the plot dealt with a similar, more generalized aspect as before; equality between different races. I was hooked after that and couldn’t stop reading.

Scout, Jem and Atticus weren’t quite the same in Go Set a Watchman.

Scout moved to New York and is now Jean Louise. She’s still herself and clings on to the things Atticus has tought her and Jem when they were younger. When she comes to visit Maycomb and most importantly her father, she finds her home to have changed. And not just her home but also her father, Atticus and so many other people she loved. On a Sunday morning, whilst sitting in church, she hears a verse spoken, verse six from the twenty-first chapter of Isaiah:

For thus hath the Lord said unto me,

Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth.

The next day she thinks to herself:

Mr. Stone set a watchman in church yesterday. He should have provided me with one. I need a watchman to lead me around and declare what he seeth every hour on the hour. I need a watchman to tell me this is what a man says but this is what he means, to draw a line down the middle and say here is this justice and there is that justice and make me understand the difference

I thought that this quote was very fitting to Jean Louise’s situation. She thought she didn’t have a watchman but in truth she did. I can explain this with another quote, this time from her Uncle.

“Every man’s island, Jean Louise, every man’s watchman, is his conscience. There is no such thing as a collective conscious.”

Jean Louise always trusted Atticus with all of her decisions, even when he wasn’t around to give her advise she thought “What would Atticus have done?”. Jean Louise witnesses something that makes her feel as if Atticus  betrayed her, the one man she trusted whole-heartedly, who she remembered saying:

If there is one slogan I believe in this world, it is: equal rights for all, special privileges for none.

Jean Louise’s Uncle, Dr. Finch said that she always “confused” Atticus as God when she grew up but Atticus will never be the knight again Jean Louise once thought him.

Dr. Finch said that she had the same conscious as Atticus because her conscious was Atticus, which means that Jean Louise’s watchman was always Atticus.

In GSAW we read Jean Louise’s way of separating her conscious from Atticus’ and being her own watchman.

This book was a brilliant sequel to TKAM and showed how children lose their initial trust and imagery of their parents whilst growing up.

A raw, heart-wrenching and brutal coming of age story.

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Overall Rating: 4.5/5

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