BOOK REVIEW: Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee (2015)

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‘Every man’s island, Jean Louise, every man’s watchman, is his conscience.’

Written in the mid 1950’s and before her Pulitzer prize winning, ‘To Kill A Mockingbird,’ Harper Lee’s highly anticipated sequel, ‘Go Set A Watchman’ is finally here!

Set two decades after ‘Mockingbird,’ Jean Louise Finch aka ‘Scout’ (now twenty-six years old) returns home from New York to visit her now rather frail father, Atticus. What would promise to be a happy homecoming for the much loved child narrator in ‘Mockingbird’ would instead become a bitter-sweet reunion for the now grown up Jean Louise as all that she thought she had known about her home, its people and her father are, to her dismay, shattered during a time of political uprisings and civil unrest. The deeper she delves into the lives of her family and of those she had been familiar with during her childhood is the more disturbing to her psyche as she grapples between the true values of her father and her own conscience.

During the release of ‘Watchman’ much attention had been given to what had been deemed as the controversial racial views upheld by the people of Maycomb, Alabama, including, rather surprisingly, Atticus, seen to be the beacon of hope and civil rights in ‘To Kill A Mockingbird.’ Upon closer inspection, what readers will find is a people fearful of change, sensing a lost of power and identity while through the lobbying of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Coloured People), a people denied their civil rights and liberties are beginning to find their voice.

Harper Lee’s choice of book titles, often symbolic and biblical in nature, carry deeper meanings with poignant messages hidden within them. In this case, the ‘watchman’ being Jean Louise, who’s conscience is pricked between the views of her father and those of the coloured people whom she had always respected as a child.

As ever, Harper Lee treats the subjects of race and culture with the care and dignity they deserve while having readers empathise with the rather uncomfortable position Jean Louise finds herself in upon her discovery of certain truths not made known to her during her childhood.

‘Go Set A Watchman’ is a fantastic read which clearly demonstrates the issues of an era which in some ways are not too disimiliar to the American South of today.

A gripping read which will have readers talking about its themes and characters for many years to come.

(c) Copyright 2015, Darell J Philip

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