Review: Go Set A Watchman

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55 years after the release of To Kill a Mockingbird, amidst the controversy, Harper Lee still wows readers with timeless storytelling

By Maisy Moran

Most of us have some sort of image that comes to our mind when we hear the title, ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’. We are either transported back to our old classrooms where we’re poring over the pages and scratching down notes to glance at minutes before an exam, or we’re reading it by choice on public transport, in our rooms, over the breakfast table, or maybe we’ve just seen Gregory Peck’s bespectacled face in black-and-white on the screen in the stellar 1962 film adaptation.Go Set A Watchman is the sequel released fifty-five years after its predecessor, and we are reunited with Jean-Louise ‘Scout’ Finch, who is now in her mid-twenties and living in New York. We find her on the train on her annual journey home to visit her father, Atticus (a man who has been the subject of much adoration from readers/viewers alike since his introduction), and the book, to put it simply, is about growing up and becoming distant from places and people we once thought we knew in their entirety.

 
If you are wary of picking this up due to the big headlines, please try to batter those fears. Will it cast an intimidating shadow over the original, be it in a positive or negative way? No. Will it leave your fond memories in tatters and leave your literary heroes irrevocably damaged? No. I wouldn’t consider this book a sequel but more of a companion piece, something you can pick up if you’re even remotely curious.

There are moments of truly beautiful writing and storytelling, although it is nowhere near as strong and powerful as the first novel. It’s a true delight reading about these characters again, especially Scout, who most of us wanted to be at one age or another. The plot is definitely mild in its tone and theme in comparison to its predecessor yet that is to be expected as To Kill A Mockingbird is a stunning book.

This is just a nice reunion with a place we once loved, like an accidental encounter with an old friend who you have a good long chat with, reliving the good old times.