The book is set almost 20 years after the Pulitzer-prize winning ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’, though it was actually penned first, but fans hoping for another storming success story might be left feeling a little left down.
Much has already been said about the fact the noble Atticus Finch is now believed to be as bigoted as the people he fought against in Harper’s first novel, and it’s fair to say that the early reviews of ‘Go Set A Watchman’ are mixed.
Here’s what the critics have to say…
“While 'To Kill a Mockingbird' ends with a sense of hope that people truly are good, 'Go Set a Watchman' wraps up with resignation that people often cannot change. Books can be self-contained; lives have the sad tendency to grow only more messy as time goes by. Jean Louise learns that she cannot write off her father—his good and his bad—just because of the views he’s always held, or because he’s a figure from a past that’s receding too slowly. It’s only by striving to see him with the eyes of an adult that she can come to understand what she stands for. Painful though it may be, that’s the reader’s task too.”
“‘Go Set a Watchman’ is a much less likable and school-teachable book. It belongs to the genre in which prodigals return to find their homeland painfully altered; disillusioned by the “Atomic Age”, Scout has notably lost the sassy swagger that makes her childish I-voice in Mockingbird so compelling.”
“To Kill a Mockingbird’s narrator was virtuosic: not merely first person but a kind of double exposure, offering a six year-old’s point of view and a 26 year-old’s vocabulary. It was an elegant way of saying the same thing, because there is no one better to report, deadpan, on the irrational behaviour of adults than a child.
There is none of that skill here, and it leads you think about the notion of distance. Not just the distance in time between writing and publication, but between novelist and subject. Lee is a less interesting writer when she's offering a version of her contemporary self.”
“One of the emotional through-lines in both ‘Mockingbird’ and ‘Watchman is a plea for empathy — as Atticus puts it in ‘Mockingbird’ to Scout: “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view.” The difference is that ‘Mockingbird’ suggested that we should have compassion for outsiders like Boo and Tom Robinson, while ‘Watchman’ asks us to have understanding for a bigot named Atticus.”
“It is not a finely written story – this reads as a ‘good’ first draft which Lee has refused to rework – yet even in its coarse state where scenes are sketchy, third-person narration shifts haphazardly and leaden lectures on the Southern States’ racial history stand-in for convincing dialogue - it is the more radical, ambitious and politicised of the two novels Lee has now published.”
‘Go Set a Watchman’ is out now.