What’s it about?
Maycomb, Alabama. Twenty-six-year-old Jean Louise Finch – ‘Scout’ – returns home from New York City to visit her ageing 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 be guided only by one’s own conscience.
To Kill a Mockingbird has been an all time favourite book of mine since reading in school 20+ years ago and is still the only book I’ve ever read several times since. I’ve seen the Gregory Peck movie and a stage play so you could say I love it! So it was kind of out of the blue some 50 odd years later along comes a ‘sequel’ and I use that term lightly. I was intrigued but I waited for all the hype to die down, I’d seen snippets and comments but avoided detailed reviews.
It’s difficult to really tell you anything about this book without spoilers as there’s a lack of any real plot for 75% of the book which makes for a long drawn out read. Lots of padding and not a fat lot going on in my humble opinion. I can totally see how critics have labelled it as a first draft for Mockingbird or even as a companion.
We do revisit with most of the original characters; Jean Louise (Scout) is older, Calpurnia makes a cameo appearance towards the end, Dill is mentioned fleetingly, Henry Clinton is a main player now as her suitor and Atticus; he’s old with crippling arthritis in his hands so is left with his sister Alexandra to care for him.
This really is what happened when Scout grew up and returns to visit Atticus so is more of a coming of age novel in that sense. While it seems to Scout that the rest of the world is moving forward, Maycomb’s views are still very firmly stuck in the past which she really struggles with. It’s very hard reading this book and marrying up the Atticus in TKAM to Atticus in this book as there are conflicting beliefs…I’m not surprised Scout is torn because as reader you are as well.
In a nutshell, the last quarter of the book has Scout finally realising that she doesn’t hold the same views as her father and she has a bit of a wake up call that he is no longer the person, the hero figure, she thought him to be.
It was a 3* read for me, I was too curious to read it despite all the criticism it received but I shouldn’t have got sucked into the hype and would have preferred to remember all the characters as they were originally.