An Aimless, Wandering Affair With Not Much Punch
To Kill a Mockingbird is almost universally hailed as the greatest American novel ever written for a reason. After waiting so many decades for something more from Harper Lee, it is difficult not to allow one’s expectations to rev into high gear. Go Set a Watchman falls short of such expectations. One would say it isn’t fair to compare Watchman to Mockingbird. But some comparison must be made as Watchman is a sequel to Harper’s timeless novel and is driven by the same characters.
Complicated issues viewed through the innocent eyes of Scout as a child made To Kill a Mockingbird great. In Go Set a Watchman, Scout is all grown up. Hence, her lack of childhood innocence automatically causes this novel’s voice to become less impactful. Also, much of the issue at hand in Watchman, racism to be precise, seems a bit behind the times. Of course racism still exists. But the old school, black and white sentiments have become more subtle these days.
Go Set a Watchman becomes a wandering affair. Reading it is like getting on a boat with no steering mechanism, firing up the motor, and going out to sea. Harper takes her time to develop nothing in this novel.
Her prose is great. But what is great prose without a great story to tell? In summary, I recommend reading this novel for the sake of catching up on one of the greatest American authors in history. But don’t expect To Kill a Mockingbird. Set your expectations low and you might find a way to enjoy reading what is next for Scout and Atticus Finch.