Go Set a Watchman

Go Set a WatchmanGo Set a Watchman by Harper Lee (2015)

Summary

Two decades after To Kill a Mockingbird, Jean Louise “Scout” Finch returns home to visit her father, Atticus Finch. It is a bittersweet trip that painfully challenges Scout’s values and her opinions of the people close to her.

Review

Go Set a Watchman was an early draft of To Kill a Mockingbird, but it was recently rediscovered and controversially published this year.

The writing felt messy and sluggish, but that isn’t surprising since it’s a rejected and unedited manuscript. The book particularly dragged in the second half, where the conversations were too long and unrefined (not to mention sickeningly racist).

The thing that upset readers most about Watchman was the characterization of Atticus Finch. America’s beloved ethical hero from Mockingbird is a racist in Watchman. Some people think Atticus must have always been racist and search for signs of it in Mockingbird; others think he may have transformed as he got older. I don’t think either is true, because I don’t think it’s the same character. Watchman was written before Mockingbird Atticus existed. Watchman was an early draft and the character evolved into something different before the final version, Mockingbird, was published. Regardless, one of the themes of Watchman is that if you idolize someone, you set yourself up to to be disappointed. There’s something to be learned from that.

I don’t think Watchman should have been published and reading it makes me appreciate Harper Lee’s editors who helped her transform her ideas into Mockingbird.

You might like this book if you are interested in…

  • To Kill a Mockingbird
  • Racism
  • Life-altering realizations
  • The American South
  • Racists defending racist beliefs

To Kill a Mockingbird

To Kill a MockingbirdTo Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960)

Summary

Scout Finch is a young girl growing up in the segregated south in the 1930s. Her father, Atticus Finch, is an attorney who takes a case to prove the innocence of a black man accused of rape.

Review

To Kill a Mockingbird is an American classic and I reread it in preparation for Go Set a Watchman‘s release.

You might like this book if you are interested in…

  • Classics
  • Racism
  • Injustice
  • Coming of age stories
  • The American South in the 1930s

Kindred

Kindred - CoverKindred by Octavia Butler (1979)

Summary

Dana, a young black woman from the 1970’s, gets spontaneously thrust back in time to the slave society of the early 1800’s. She meets her ancestors (both white and black), endures life as a slave, and even time travels a couple times with her white husband (whom they have to pretend is her owner).

Review

I thought this novel about Dana’s dual life as a modern woman and as a slave was brilliant. She struggles with trying to change attitudes toward slavery while also ensuring that her lineage stays intact, fearing she might cease to exist.

The time travel mechanic is never explained, but that’s because it’s not what the book is really about. Kindred brings slavery to life through the eyes of a modern protagonist, making it feel present instead of something that happened a long time ago. It deals with issues of both race and gender as well as survival, relationships, and freedom.

Everyone should read this book.

You might like this book if you like…

  • The antebellum South
  • Racial & gender issues
  • Time travel
  • The Time Traveler’s Wife by Audrey Niffenegger