Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

As anyone who happens across this blog will readily see, I don’t usually read the newest or most publicised books. But this was given to me by my daughter and I wanted to get right to it.

i enjoyed it but, unsurprisingly, it doesn’t bear all that much comparison with the wonderful ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’. I have tried to steer clear of reading reviews but it has been hard to miss the indignation expressed that the character Atticus Finch, seen by many as an exemplar of liberal wisdom in ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, is portrayed here, in later life, as a Southern racist. But I think that is the whole point.

The flyleaf notes to this book say that it is a companion to its earlier sibling, deepening our understanding of it. I agree with that. We are reminded in this book that everything depends on your point of view – “man is the measure of all things”, as Protagoras the ancient Greek philosopher said a few thousand years’ ago. Atticus was a believer in justice but that is not the same thing as being a believer in racial equality.

The ‘watchman’ in the title is conscience. Everyone has to set their own, and live by it.

Some of the dialogue is too contrived in order to hammer this point home. But the writing from within the mind of the protagonist – a grown up ‘ Scout’, Jean-Louise – is very well sustained.

So a good book and I think in time the two books will increasingly be read together. I have read somewhere that one of the reasons that ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ is so good is the editing and this book could have done with a similarly talented editor, But, nonetheless, it is well worth reading, especially if you are already familiar with ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’.


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