Sunday, November 13, 2016

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee | Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

It's safe to say that most of are familiar with Lee's classic To Kill a Mockingbird--for years, it's been one of the most challenged books and is a frequent in high school curriculum. If you've never read it yourself, you almost absolutely know it from a distance and have formed your judgment on where it stands. I will say this much: I wasn't much of a reader when we studied this in English when I was growing up. But, much like the study around The Outsiders, I actually didn't completely hate studying it.

Which is--naturally--a huge deal for some students. That being said, originally promoted as a sequel to the novel above, Go Set a Watchman is actually a draft of what later became To Kill a Mockingbird. There's a definite palpable energy to it that feels like Harper Lee but doesn't quite reach it like so many of us had hoped. In turn, Go Set a Watchman is choppy and a lot of, well, unsavory pages. Many readers will have long ago remarked that, while it is well-written, the fact that it's a draft is blatantly obvious to anyone who picks it up.

It may be fascinating to have this been released, a relief for many, and I'm sure many have enjoyed it far more than me. But (but!) I can't help but to cringe at its publication as a general thing. There are many flaws in Go Set a Watchman that I'm sure you've already heard in the time since it was published--it's taken me ages to finish it because it was equal parts frustrating, out of character and boring--and one question remains: was this really necessary?


The short answer is no.

Another question: does it ruin the original? Depends on who you ask.

Go Set a Watchman is certainly a controversial release that just... doesn't feel right at the end of the day. It's controversial to ways different than its original novel. It's unexpected. It's lackluster. It's offensive. It's cringe-worthy to an otherworldly degree. It's nowhere near as moving as To Kill a Mockingbird. And to cap it all off, it's victim to a misconception in marketing. Still, it's a relatively interesting idea to consider how the story came to be what we know it is, versus this draft.

That being said: it's not good on the level it should be. It's not god-awful in many ways but it's a thorough disappointment to me, personally.

There's nothing more obvious than the fact that this was a draft--Harper Lee's writing stands the test of time and shows us what her chops were like before the story came to be. Overall, it just felt like something that should have never been published in the first place and then broadened into a, "why the fuck is this marketed as a sequel?" question-filled race. Don't get me wrong: a lot of people liked it and you're absolutely allowed to. It just wasn't for me--the entire deal of it. I stand by it.

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