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Monday, Sep 23, 2019

Go Set a Watchman first reactions: Legacy destroying or radical?

Harper Lee's new novel Go Set a Watchman, allegedly written two years before To Kill a Mockingbird, was released on July 14. The book has received mixed reactions, from outrageous to subtle and positive.

books Updated: Jul 14, 2015 17:46 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
The cover of Harper Lee’s new book ‘Go Set a Watchman’.
The cover of Harper Lee’s new book ‘Go Set a Watchman’.( )

"Of course I do. Don't say ni*@#!, Scout. That's common."

"'s what everybody at school says."

"From now on it'll be everybody less one--"

"Well if you don't want me to grow up talkin' that way, why do you send me to school?"

- Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird, published in 1960, was an outraging success and Atticus Finch went on to become the most revered fictional character of all times.

Much to the disappointment of readers, a second book by Lee was never released until this Tuesday. And readers are not very pleased.

The first chapter, published in the Guardian last week, revealed that our very own Atticus Finch grows to become a 72-year-old cripple and a bigot. The revelation left readers outraged and disappointed. Scout, now Jean Louise, is 26 and has returned from New York to Alabama. Jem is dead.

Go Set a Watchman, released 55 years after Mockingbird's release, was the most-awaited book of the year. While readers are queuing up to get their hands on the book, the reviews and reactions of readers have been mixed.

Readers took to twitter and posted their reactions.

From outrageous reviews to subtle reactions, the book has received responses that are strikingly different from what Mockingbird received.

New York Times reviewer Michiko Kakutani wonders how a book strewn with hate speeches could have led to a master piece that Mockingbird is.

"How did a story about the discovery of evil views in a revered parent turn into a universal parable about the loss of innocence - both the inevitable loss of innocence that children experience in becoming aware of the complexities of grown-up life and a cruel world's destruction of innocence (symbolized by the mockingbird and represented by Tom Robinson and the reclusive outsider Boo Radley)?," she writes.

Joanne Harris, author of Chocolat, writes in MailOnline that the book is "uncomfortable, fascinating, haunting; but accompanied by a sense of something irretrievably altered".
Some reviews carried outraged tones. Maureen Corrigan of npr books, says, "Go Set a Watchman is a troubling confusion of a novel, politically and artistically, beginning with its fishy origin story."

She goes on to say that Watchman, claimed to be a recently-discovered origin story, is actually a "failed sequel".

Natasha Trethewey says, "In prose less nuanced than that of "Mockingbird," prose steeped in the political rhetoric after the Brown decision, the characters in "Watchman" carry out an ideological debate that began in the South but would come to occupy the national consciousness in the 1960s and 1970s and in many ways continues today."

LA Times reviewer David L Ulin says, the book is about Jean Louise's "struggle to come to some accommodation with a father who is not who she believed he was."

Independent's Arifa Akbar says that the book is not a polished or structured work yet the ideas are much more radical and politicised than in Mockingbird.

For the sheer brilliance of Lee's first novel, reading Go Set a Watchman is a must. Rough or messy, we are sure Harper Lee will not fail to amaze us.

First Published: Jul 14, 2015 17:24 IST