Go set a watchman. 

I’ve read it. I read it early and quickly. Wasn’t going to risk anyone ruining it for me. 

I get asked, should I read it? 

I don’t know about the should business. Should you read anything?

And I get asked, is it good? Is it worth reading?

I don’t know. Good is so personal, so individual. And what’s worthy in reading terms? Sounds like a question a non-reader asks. 

I love To Kill a Mockingbird. I’m an English teacher so I’ve taught it more times than I can remember. Most people have an idealised memory of the novel, probably based on he movie or remembered through the mists of time. They forget the opening is tedious in its description. But it is suspenseful; does have the world’s most loving father; a great sense of place and time and people. 

This is not To Kill. Nor is it a sequel (for example the reference to the trial – it was a different trial). Go Set is a novel in its own right. A good novel. A novel that has characters you care for, you see develop, you understand are in deep conundrums in a time of change. A novel to enjoy. But it is not a great novel in the sense of To Kill is. So read it an enjoy. 

Go Set does have a deeper layer. If you love exploring the concept of creativity, of considering where authors get their stories from and of how novels develop, Go Set is insightful. You can see how, with judicious advice and much rewriting, Harper Lee took this story and turned it into the beloved To Kill a Mockingbird. 

I wasn’t upset that Atticus was different, that a key character is no more. Remember: it is not a sequel. It’s a different reworking of a story of grappling with race and gender in the South. (Only thing that annoyed me: what a stupid title.)

Read it. And it may prompt you to rediscover To Kill a Mockingbird which you probably haven’t read since Year 10 English. 

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11 thoughts on “Go set a watchman. 

  1. I did indeed read To Kill a Mockingbird in Year 10 English! And then re-read it 5 years ago. And ; watched the movie for the first time. I am not keen to read the new book; thinking of it as a draft / early edition, and I haven’t read anyone else’s drafts. Maybe someday I will pick it up, but right now I’m not enthused.

  2. I LOVE To Kill A Mockingbird and reread it regularly. I am looking forward to reading this one too, though as Dar said, it is an odd thing to publish a rejected version of a successful novel.. it does seem rather like a marketing ploy.. still, as you say, particularly useful to see how those characters developed later.. you’ve whet my appetite now.

  3. To Kill a Mockingbird was also one of our Year 10 English novels. I was thinking last week how very grateful I was/am to my English teacher in High School, who taught us 3 years in a row. We were introduced to a great canon of poetry, Shakespeare and novels. I haven’t been keen to read Go Set a Watchman, only because I don’t want my fantastic memories of High School English to be sullied by reading this, judging by all the reviews. I want to keep the original magic alive.

  4. I was also required to read To Kill a Mockingbird in high school (summer reading prior to 9th grade here) and thought it was okay. But I kept my copy and reread it again in college. Much better that time, and I’ve reread it every few years since. I don’t plan to read Go Set a Watchman – don’t like the circumstances under which it was published, and I don’t want it to change my opinion of To Kill a Mockingbird. I’m glad you enjoyed a deeper understanding of her writing process – very interesting!

  5. Yeah I’ll be skipping it – as I said to mum, who has read it, the only reason To Kill a Mockingbird was such a big deal is that it was written when civil rights was at the height of it’s poignancy. A little like a bestseller (or I think of a song actually) about gay marriage now. It’s not to say it isn’t good, but I think it’s good within the context of the time.

    I also read it at school. I don’t much like anything I was ‘made’ to analyse within an inch of it’s life. I’d like to have had more stimulating books in some regards – more approachable, or Australian, or something. I’d love to have thought more about poverty in a more localised context. Ok, I’m a little crackpot this arvo, I’ll sign off!

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