Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee

“She did not stand alone, but what stood behind her, the most potent moral force in her life, was the love of her father. She never questioned it, never thought about it, never even realized that before she made any decision of importance the reflext, ‘What would Atticus do?’ passed through her unconscious; she never realized what made her dig in her feet and stand firm whenever she did was her father; that whatever decent and of good report in her character was put there by her father; she did not know that she worshiped him.”

Kicking off the year with the sequel to a book close to my heart. To Kill A Mockingbird, written in 1960, was handed to me by my uncle when I was 14. At this stage of my reading life, Young Adult was EVERYTHING and classics were BORING and for OLD PEOPLE. I dunno, at that age, whenever anyone asked me whether I would ever read classics, I quite honestly admitted I didn’t think I was there. “I’m not ready yet”, was my very juvenile response. In my head I was saying “leave me be with my YA fantasy series’, why should I read anything else?” So anyway, To Kill A Mockingbird was stuffed into my hands and it ended up coming to Egypt with me.

I’m unsure of what possessed me to pick it up months later amongst my angsty vampire novels, but I did, granted with a little anticipation of boredom. I made sure I would be patient with this novel and give it an honest go. It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. To Kill A Mockingbird blew me away. I was astounded that a book could be written which made me think so much, rather than fall in love with teenage werewolves. I was astounded that characters in books became so much more than characters in books and became people, REAL PEOPLE. It was the first time a book had left me walking around aimlessly dreaming about all the repercussions and aspects of life once I had finished it.

I wanted more! I didn’t know where to look! What to begin with, where to start, on what seemed like a completely new world. After English classes I asked for recommendations and my English teacher at the time (a legend of a woman), with a huge smile I couldn’t understand sent me off to the bookstore with a list consisting of Steinbeck’s The Pearl, Orwell’s 1984 and Animal Farm. I remember this one instance, where in the middle of class, she slyly walked up to my desk and dropped Animal Farm on it with a wink without anyone noticing. At the end of class I thanked her and said I’d bring it back once I finished. She told me not to: keep it. I owe a lot to that lady. Also, she may have stolen the book from the school’s stock.

So, To Kill A Mockingbird is a monumental milestone for me as a reader, and you can imagine my excitement when To Set A Watchman was released. A Level’s have kind of got in the way of reading the book for the past 3 years (I’m a terrible person), and I’ve just finished it. Whenever this book has popped up on my feed, or I’ve read reviews and stuff, it’s been mostly negative. Hearing this, honestly made me kind of apprehensive to read it, I didn’t want to ruin it.

*sighs very heavily*

Honestly, I understood what people meant. It wasn’t To Kill A Mockingbird, it wasn’t the classic so many love and adore. There were moments when I was reading it and looking at how many pages were left and thinking “okay something’s got to happen”. I felt like there was so much of this book still to be written, so much more story to be told. We’re left on a cliffhanger and you’re hit with a sense of sadness because this is it. This is as far as we’ll know for sure.

There were aspects of To Set A Watchman which left me bewildered if I’m being honest. The whole “now you’re your own person” thing just didn’t seem to fit with what so many people associate To Kill A Mockingbird with, although it is a nice sentiment, I feel like it’s a half formed idea. It lacked the depth of story and Scout’s sense of voice which was loved in To Kill A Mockingbird.

Plus! The all of a sudden “I’ve got to accept one of my favorite characters is dead” within the first 20 pages just was too much.

However, I’m not hating on this book whatsoever. I gave it a solid 4 stars on Goodreads. It was very good and funny and had the touch of a coming of age story, an aspect of To Kill A Mockingbird I always wondered. “Well, what happened to Scout? And Atticus? And Jem?” This book is a lovely continuation, if not bittersweet. I honestly don’t understand why people have been so disappointed. Okay, it wasn’t To Kill A Mockingbird, but it was never going to be.

I could never hate To Kill A Mockingbird, and this book hasn’t lessened my opinion of it, if anything, it’s made me love it more. It adds context to the story of a changing world, of growing up and learning to see your parents as human and flawed. It makes it easier to stand on your own two feet.

So, I’d recommend reading this with an open mind, and if it’s been a while since you read the prequel, and expect some nostalgia. Atticus Finch remains one of my favorite characters ever written.

Just read it, don’t listen to the critics.

The time your friends need you is when they’re wrong.

“Prejudice, a dirty word, and faith, a clean one, have something in common: they both begin where reason ends.”

“Remember this also: it’s always easy to look back and see what we were, yesterday, ten years ago. It is hard to see what we are. If you can master that trick, you’ll get along.”