Review of 'Go Set a Watchman'

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

To say this sequel of “To Kill a Mockingbird” caused a bit of a stir when published in 2015 would be a bit of an understatement. It's author had, up that point, only the original book to her name which was published more than 50 years earlier and was made into a classic film staring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch, the white lawyer tasked with defending a young black man accused of rape. The story is told from the perspective of six-year-old Jean Louise Finch (“Scout”) and touches on the topics of racism, rape and injustice.

“Go Set a Watchman” is set two decades after the events of “To Kill a Mockingbird” as Jean Louise returns to Maycomb to visit her aging father and on the way rekindling her relationship with Henry, now an adult. She revisits characters we met in the original novel in the sleepy town which has aspects that have remained unchanged but in other ways is completely changed. As she sees her hometown with mature eyes the veil of childhood is raised and she is not happy with what she sees. She finds the negros that had cared for her family over the years, now freed harbour an unexpected animosity and the deep divisions of racism run all the way to the centre of her world, her father.

I found “Go Set a Watchman” a refreshing and real coda to the original novel where Scout grows up and sees the truth of the community and people she originally idolized. Some have criticised even the suggestion of Atticus being a racist but I found this sequel showing a much more real person, flaws and all, but with a heart of integrity which goes untarnished here. It might not be to everyone's liking but this is a much more adult novel than the original that is not afraid to say the unsayable, to open the eyes and reveal the truth. You might not like what you see but it remains the truth.

Quite a departure from the optimism of “To Kill a Mockingbird”, “Go Set a Watchman” reveals the reality of racism in post-slavery America. Though thin on plot and story, this is a book of revelation and closure, a book that demands we question our beliefs and see the truth for what it is.

Rating: “Nearly perfect, but not quite”

Review Date: 2023-02-26

Genre: General Fiction

Publisher: Arrow Books

Publication Date: 2015

ISBN: 9781784752460