From Harper Lee comes a landmark new novel set two decades after her beloved Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece, To Kill a Mockingbird. Maycomb, Alabama. Twenty-six-year-old Jean Louise Finch-"Scout"-returns home from New York City to visit her aging father, Atticus. Set against the backdrop of the civil rights tensions and political turmoil that were transforming the South, Jean Louise's homecoming turns bittersweet when she learns disturbing truths about her close-knit family, the town, and the people dearest to her. Memories from her childhood flood back, and her values and assumptions are thrown into doubt. Featuring many of the iconic characters from To Kill a Mockingbird, Go Set a Watchman perfectly captures a young woman, and a world, in painful yet necessary transition out of the illusions of the past - a journey that can only be guided by one's own conscience. Written in the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman imparts a fuller, richer understanding and appreciation of Harper Lee. Here is an unforgettable novel of wisdom, humanity, passion, humor, and effortless precision - a profoundly affecting work of art that is both wonderfully evocative of another era and relevant to our own times. It not only confirms the enduring brilliance of To Kill a Mockingbird, but also serves as its essential companion, adding depth, context, and new meaning to an American classic.
"Jean Louise Finch is back home in Maycomb, Alabama, for a visit, after living in New York City just long enough to gain a new perspective on her past and her future. At 26, she is self-deprecating, impulsive, argumentative, sensitive, and conflicted. Called Scout as a motherless girl, she was a howling tomboy, juvenile desperado, hell-raiser extraordinary. She still has a cowlick, and her corseted Aunt Alexandra still fusses about her unladylike clothes and manners. Jean Louise has always worshipped her lawyer father, Atticus; loved and trusted their African American housekeeper, Calpurnia; and utterly relied on her older brother, Jem.So iconic are Harper Lee's characters, Go Set a Watchman sure seems like a sequel to her Pulitzer Prize-winning, quintessential American tale, To Kill a Mockingbird (1960). But Lee wrote this very different novel before she wrote the book that brought her lifelong fame and turned her hometown, Monroeville, Alabama, into a tourist attraction. To Kill a Mockingbird its renown amplified by the Academy Award-winning film version that forever fused Lee's hero, Atticus Finch, with Gregory Peck, was the writer's only published book for 55 years. Heated speculation about how and why this book was finally released propelled a high tide of media coverage, a deluge of preorders, and readers lined up outside bookstores. It's exciting to be part of such a mighty surge of passionate curiosity about a book, and this is only the beginning. The sharp and disquieting contrast between the two novels, especially between the two variations on Atticus, will fuel discussions and dissertations for years to come. Jem has died young and suddenly, as their mother did. Atticus, at 72, is struggling with rheumatoid arthritis. Jem and Scout's childhood friend, Henry, a character new to readers, is now a lawyer working with Atticus, and anxious for Jean Louise to finally say yes to his repeated marriage proposals. She and Henry share a deep and precious history, but she just doesn't love him the way she should. She also doesn't know if she can move back to Maycomb and its dense web of gossiping kin and neighbors, and she recoils at the very idea of marriage. She has always been appalled by the circumscribed lives the women live there, and wonders if loving your man means losing your own identity. Her quandary over Henry is complicated by a fatal car accident in which Calpurnia's favorite grandson accidentally kills a white man. When Atticus takes the case, his daughter is proud, remembering how, years ago, he accomplished what was never before or after done in Maycomb County: he won an acquittal for a colored boy on a rape charge. But certain nauseating disclosures, precipitated by her finding a pamphlet titled The Black Plague, reveal the poisonous truth about her father's attitude toward his African American neighbors, which ranges from vile white supremacist delusions to outrage over the NAACP's calling for the seating of black jurors. Jean Louise is devastated by her father's racism. She feels betrayed right down to the marrow in her bones, and begins questioning everything about her past. Lee wrote Go Set a Watchman soon after the landmark 1954 Supreme Court case, Brown v. Board of Education, which put an end to segregated public schools, a decision that ignited rage and fear among whites and catalyzed the civil rights movement. By revealing the insidious prejudice of a man as seemingly upright as Atticus, Lee uncloaks the malignant hatred, anger, and fear that have made the South a land of terror for African Americans, a legacy exposed yet again in recent weeks with the church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, followed by the long overdue removal of the Confederate flag from the grounds of the state capital. Lee addresses another volatile topic, sexism, primarily in flashbacks to Jean Louise's reluctant and utterly unprepared passage into young womanhood. Scout is shocked by menstruation and dangerously confused about sex and pregnancy, and her one attempt to dress up results in a hilarious falsies mishap. These are the most richly imagined and crisply realized sections in the novel. The incisive editor who worked with Lee on the manuscript encouraged her to rewrite the novel, setting it in the mid-1930s, when Scout was eight and the old order, which strictly defined race relations, was still in place. Lee worked intensely for two years on what became To Kill a Mockingbird, and set this novel aside.Though Lee's prose is frequently stilted in Go Set a Watchman, her transitions awkward, her descents into exposition bumpy, this is a daring, raw, intimate, and incendiary social exposé. A story, perhaps, far too alienating, too candid, and too hot to handle fresh from the typewriter, during that more buttoned-up era. Given the systematic racist invective unleashed during the two terms of our first African American president, and the increasingly visible police violence against African Americans, now truly is the time for Harper Lee's unsettling confrontation with racism, our national malady.Jean Louise suffers through a church service in which the minister reads from Isiah: For thus hath the Lord said unto me, / Go, set a watchman, let him declare what he seeth. Later she thinks, 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 . . . Let Harper Lee be our watchman.--Seaman, Donna Copyright 2015 Booklist"
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review:
"The editor who rejected Lee's first effort had the right idea. The novel the world has been waiting for is clearly the work of a novice, with poor characterization (how did the beloved Scout grow up to be such a preachy bore, even as she serves as the book's moral compass?), lengthy exposition, and ultimately not much story, unless you consider Scout thinking she's pregnant because she was French-kissed or her losing her falsies at the school dance compelling. The book opens in the 1950s with Jean Louise, a grown-up 26-year-old Scout, returning to Maycomb from New York, where she's been living as an independent woman. Jean Louise is there to see Atticus, now in his seventies and debilitated by arthritis. She arrives in a town bristling from the NAACP's actions to desegregate the schools. Her aunt Zandra, the classic Southern gentlewoman, berates Jean Louise for wearing slacks and for considering her longtime friend and Atticus protégé Henry Clinton as a potential husband-Zandra dubs him trash. But the crux of the book is that Atticus and Henry are racist, as is everyone else in Jean Louise's old life (even her childhood caretaker, Calpurnia, sees the white folks as the enemy). The presentation of the South pushing back against the dictates of the Federal government, utilizing characters from a book that was about justice prevailing in the South through the efforts of an unambiguous hero, is a worthy endeavor. Lee just doesn't do the job with any aplomb. The theme of the book is basically about not being able to go home again, as Jean Louise sums it up in her confrontation with Atticus: "there's no place for me anymore in Maycomb, and I'll never be entirely at home anywhere else." As a picture of the desegregating South, the novel is interesting but heavy-handed, with harsh language and rough sentiments: "Do you want them in our world?" Atticus asks his daughter. The temptation to publish another Lee novel was undoubtedly great, but it's a little like finding out there's no Santa Claus. © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved."
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