I don’t remember much about To Kill a Mockingbird, it’s been over a decade since I read it, and I regret not re-reading it before beginning Go Set a Watchman. I kept trying to remember if Henry, Dr. Finch and Alexandra had factored into the first book or were new characters to replace Calpurnia, Jem and Dill.
Jean Louise “Scout” Finch has returned home to Maycomb, from New York, for her annual two week vacation. Her lawyer father, Atticus, is in poor health and being minded for by his sister, Alexandra. Childhood friend and current beau, Henry, has joined the Finch law offices and Jem has died of the same heart condition Scout’s mother had. Let’s get the elephant in the room out of the way quickly- Atticus Finch has joined a community group that has a keen interest in keeping the town’s African American community “in their place.” If there is anything more disconcerting than hearing Atticus Finch use the “N” word it’s hearing it said by Reese Witherspoon because you opted for the audiobook.
“As you grew up, when you were grown, totally unknown to yourself, you confused your father with God. You never saw him as a man with a man’s heart, and a man’s failings—I’ll grant you it may have been hard to see, he makes so few mistakes, but he makes ’em like all of us.”
Jean Louise has a crisis of faith and identity with this discovery. The story takes place over just a few days but there are a lot of wonderful flash backs to JL’s childhood that help round out the story. They’re the best part by far. Go Set a Watchman is a coming of age novel about a young woman who has to find herself in the ashes of her former life. It probably gained a star by being a long awaited sequel (despite my poor memory) of a beloved classic; if it was the first introduction of these characters I’d probably have no sympathy for Atticus and find it difficult to root for JL to find a way to keep her beliefs without breaking away from her father.