Friday, July 24, 2015

Harper Lee - Go Set a Watchman

+HarperCollins Publishers
+Kindle Books

I will not comment on whether I think this book is written by Harper Lee or not. I will merely judge the book as it is. Is is a good book? Is the story good? Is the writing beautiful?

I cannot disassociate the book from To Kill a Mockingbird.  Even if it were a derivate, it would be hard not to be thinking of the book that came first.  Honestly, I ordered the book because I could not ignore it.  Harper Lee is the official writer and the book she wrote tops my best book list.

That said, I approached the book with zero expectations.  My expectations were justified.

The story picks up years after the happenings in To Kill a Mockingbird .  

Scout, or Jean Louise Finch, is now 26 and living in New York. She returns to Maycomb on a vacation. 

We get a look at what our favorite characters are up to. Atticus is in his 70s and suffering from arthritis.  Aunt Alexandra takes care of Atticus, Uncle Jack lives close by. Calpurnia has retired, Dill is visiting Rome and Jem is dead.  

Boo Radley is nowhere.  There is no mention of the Radleys at all.  Of course, years have passed.  The face of Maycomb is changing.  There are some constants, some variables.

Jean Louise returns to Maycomb to her childhood sweetheart, Hank Clinton. Aunt Alexandra does not approve of Hank, he is white trash and not quality folk like they are.  That makes Hank look all the more acceptable to Scout.

Jean Louise has to make a decision about whether she should marry Hank or not.  Hank is a lawyer now the right hand of Atticus.  He is quickly gaining a foothold in Maycomb society and has political aspirations.  Jean Louise does love him but is not sure if she is ready to settle down to domesticity.

While pondering over this, she is shocked out of her wits to discover that her idol, her beacon, her father, Atticus, is in favor of maintaining racial segregation.  Calpurnia seems disillusioned and the colored community is no longer in awe of Atticus.

The writing is nothing to write home about.  The novel itself is flat and undistinguished.  There are some flashes of spark when Jean Louise goes into flashback.  Our interest is piqued because it refers to the time that we know already and love so intensely.

There are too many descriptions of characters and events.  This stalls the novel and does not allow us the luxury of discovering the characters on our own.

I was underwhelmed by the novel.  But I was expecting to be underwhelmed.  The novel does not have the stamp of the author at all.  It reads more like a poorly written derivative fiction.  


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