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Go Set a Watchman: A Novel Hardcover – Deckle Edge, July 14, 2015

3.4 out of 5 stars 10,938 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

Go Set a Watchman is such an important book, perhaps the most important novel on race to come out of the white South in decades… (New York Times Opinion Pages: Taking Note)

Watchman is compelling in its timeliness.” (Washington Post)

Go Set a Watchman provides valuable insight into the generous, complex mind of one of America’s most important authors.” (USA Today)

“Harper Lee’s second novel sheds more light on our world than its predecessor did.” (Time)

“[Go Set a Watchman] contains the familiar pleasures of Ms. Lee’s writing- the easy, drawling rhythms, the flashes of insouciant humor, the love of anecdote.” (Wall Street Journal)

“…the voice we came to know so well in To Kill a Mockingbird - funny, ornery, rulebreaking - is right here in Go Set a Watchman, too, as exasperating and captivating as ever.” (Chicago Tribune)

“Don’t let ‘Go Set a Watchman’ change the way you think about Atticus Finch…the hard truth is that a man such as Atticus, born barely a decade after Reconstruction to a family of Southern gentry, would have had a complicated and tortuous history with race.” (Los Angeles Times)

“A significant aspect of this novel is that it asks us to see Atticus now not merely as a hero, a god, but as a flesh-and-blood man with shortcomings and moral failing, enabling us to see ourselves for all our complexities and contradictions.” (Washington Post)

“The success of Go Set a Watchman... lies both in its depiction of Jean Louise reckoning with her father’s beliefs, and in the manner by which it integrates those beliefs into the Atticus we know.” (Time)

Go Set a Watchman’s greatest asset may be its role in sparking frank discussion about America’s woeful track record when it comes to racial equality.” (San Francisco Chronicle)

Go Set a Watchman comes to us at exactly the right moment. All important works of art do. They come when we don’t know how much we need them.” (Chicago Tribune)

“What makes Go Set a Watchman memorable is its sophisticated and even prescient view of the long march for racial justice. Remarkably, a novel written that long ago has a lot to say about our current struggles with race and inequality.” (Chicago Tribune)

“[Go Set a Watchman] captures some of the same small-town Southern humor and preoccupation with America’s great struggle: race.” (Columbus Dispatch)

Go Set a Watchman’s gorgeous opening is better than we could have expected.” (Vanity Fair)

Go Set a Watchman is more complex than Harper Lee’s original classic. A satisfying novel… it is, in most respects, a new work, and a pleasure, revelation and genuine literary event.” (The Guardian)

“Lee’s ability with description is evident… with long sentences beautifully rendered and evoking a world long lost to history, but welcoming all the same.” (CNN.com)

“A coming-of-age novel in which Scout becomes her own woman…Go Set a Watchman’s voice is beguiling and distinctive, and reminiscent of Mockingbird. (It) can’t be dismissed as literary scraps from Lee’s imagination. It has too much integrity for that.” (The Independent)

“Atticus’ complexity makes Go Set a Watchman worth reading. With Mockingbird, Harper Lee made us question what we know and who we think we are. Go Set a Watchman continues in this noble literary tradition.” (New York Post)

“A deftly written tale… there’s something undeniably comforting and familiar about sinking into Lee’s prose once again.” (People)

“One overarching theme that many critics have zeroed in on is that there is a lot to learn from the novel, as both a writer and a reader.” (Vulture)

“As Faulkner said, the only good stories are the ones about the human heart in conflict with itself. And that’s a pretty good summation of Go Set a Watchman.” (Daily Beast)

Go Set a Watchman offers a rich and complex story… To make the novel about pinning the right label on Atticus is to miss the point.” (Bloomberg View)

“[Go Set a Watchman is a] brilliant book that ruthlessly examines race relations (Denver Post)

“In this powerful newly published story about the Finch family, Lee presents a wider window into the white Southern heart, and tells us it is finally time for us all to shatter the false gods of the past and be free.” (NPR's "Code Switch")

“[Go Set a Watchman is] filled with the evocative language, realistic dialogue and sense of place that partially explains what made Mockingbird so beloved.” (Buffalo News)

From the Back Cover

Go Set a Watchman is such an important book, perhaps the most important novel on race to come out of the white South in decades.”—Clay Risen, New York Times

Maycomb, Alabama. Twenty-six-year-old Jean Louise Finch—“Scout”—returns home from New York City to visit her aging father, Atticus. Set against the backdrop of the civil rights tensions and political turmoil that were transforming the South, Jean Louise’s homecoming turns bittersweet when she learns disturbing truths about her close-knit family, the town, and the people dearest to her. Memories from her childhood flood back, and her values and assumptions are thrown into doubt. Featuring many of the iconic characters from To Kill a Mockingbird, Go Set a Watchman perfectly captures a young woman, and a world, in painful yet necessary transition out of the illusions of the past—a journey that can only be guided by one’s own conscience.

Written in the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman imparts a fuller, richer understanding and appreciation of Harper Lee. Here is an unforgettable novel of wisdom, humanity, passion, humor, and effortless precision—a profoundly affecting work of art that is both wonderfully evocative of another era and relevant to our own times. It not only confirms the enduring brilliance of To Kill a Mockingbird but also serves as its essential companion, adding depth, context, and new meaning to an American classic.

“Harper Lee’s second novel sheds more light on our world than its predecessor did.”—Time

“Provides valuable insight into the generous, complex mind of one of America’s most important authors.”—USA Today
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Harper; 1st edition (July 14, 2015)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0062409859
  • ISBN-13: 978-0062409850
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10,938 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,391 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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By Arielle Davinger on July 14, 2015
Format: Kindle Edition
If "Go Set a Watchman" had been published before "To Kill a Mockingbird," it would have been meaningless. Tom Robinson's trial would be just a vague incident in the Jean Louise's memory instead of a culturally iconic scene. Atticus Finch would be his daughter's fallen hero, but not ours. If "Watchman" had been first, we would only know Atticus as a segregationist and we wouldn't care: he wouldn't have been an ethical role model and a hero. There would be references to Atticus's past and why Jean Louise's world is shaken when she finds out he is a segregationist, but we would not share them. Now, though, Jean Louise's (who I keep referring to as "Scout" out of habit) feelings of betrayal are our own, as we can see by the collective Internet outrage.

That's why "Watchman" works; that's why I have to give it four stars. "Watchman" is about fallen idols and disillusionment. Jean Louise tries to reconcile how moral paragon Atticus Finch could be racist, and that's what the readers have been trying to reconcile, as well. The press release for "Watchman" said, "[Jean Louise Finch] is forced to grapple with issues both personal and political as she tries to understand her father's attitude toward society, and her own feelings about the place where she was born and spent her childhood," which gave us a hint that the Atticus we knew--the infallible anti-racist crusader--would not be that way in "Watchman." The talk about "Watchman" tarnishing Lee's legacy contributed to that idea. Still, I dismissed this possibility until it was confirmed, and even then, I was in denial.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I came in skeptical, but I loved this novel for exactly what it is: a brilliantly written, beautiful southern novel about a young woman who discovers her father is not a god. And I'm angry that some pompous, patriarchal publisher squashed it and convinced her to write a brilliantly written, beautiful southern novel about a young woman who discovers her father is a god. WATCHMAN is about growing up, "killing the Buddha" and laying claim to one's own world view.

I can certainly believe that this is Harper Lee's first novel. I totally understand why the editor buried it and encouraged her to bend her considerable talent to the concept of MOCKINGBIRD, latching onto a fairly insignificant anecdote and reframing it as the main plot thrust -- which also neatly swapped hero and heroine, making the star of the book a man instead of a young woman.

Setting aside the suspicious circumstances of the magical appearance of WATCHMAN (and the buckets of money involved for the publisher and agent), I also totally get why Harper Lee might want us to have this novel now, at this point in her life. She is now where old Atticus is in WATCHMAN: an elderly person who is sick and tired of carrying the burden of our hero worship. So there. Take that. Eat your disillusionment and throw up behind the ice cream parlor that was once your childhood home. It hurts, and it infuriates, and it strips away your security blanket. Get over it.

As an editor, I want to go back in time, embrace this young author, force her to firmly look in my eyes, and tell her: "This is a wonderful book. And you must write another one and another and another, and every one of them should say exactly what you want to say.
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There's been a lot of controversy surrounding the publication of GO SET A WATCHMAN, which has been universally recognized as the first draft of what would eventually become Harper Lee's magnificent TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. WATCHMAN, written several years before MOCKINGBIRD, tells the story of 26-year-old Jean Louise Finch who returns to her childhood home of Maycomb, Alabama to visit her 72-year-old father, Atticus Finch. At first, the visit is bathed in the patina of memories and nostalgia - Jean Louise remembers the smells, the sounds, and the people she grew up with, and she resents the changes that have taken place (Atticus has left the house where Jean Louise was born and built himself a new place that doesn't quite feel the same). The first third of the novel is slow-paced and wistful, with Jean Louise flirting with childhood friend and maybe-fiancé, Hank Clinton, now her father's law partner. She spars with her Aunt Alexandra (who berates her for wearing "slacks" in town) and her Uncle Jack (whose conversation is steeped in metaphor and allusion). It isn't until she learns that Atticus and Hank are both part of the Maycomb County Citizen's Council, an organization bent on preventing racial integration, that the plot really begins. The Atticus we see here - a man determined to preserve the identity of a South torn asunder, first by emancipation and then by Supreme Court decisions - is not the Atticus Jean Louise remembers from her childhood. She thought of him as a God, and we who so loved both the book and movie versions of MOCKINGBIRD did, too. But WATCHMAN has a message that's far more complex than its more famous counterpart. Because Atticus is not a God. He's also not evil, even in his need to protect his world from the kind of change that cannot come easily.Read more ›
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