Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

When I read To Kill a Mockingbird (TKMB), I loved every moment of it. I might not be able to say the same about Go Set a Watchman (GSW). But then, the book is good. Comparing it to the prequel would be an injustice. In its own right, the book makes an interesting read.

Right from the word go, I was able to relate to Jean Louise Finch. But considering I was already able to relate to the li’l Jean, aka Scout (oh.. now she prefers being called Jean Louise.. not Scout), it didn’t come as a surprise. (The tomboy-turned-girl-turned-woman, returning home from the big city and finding it tough to fit into the expectations of her hometown– sounds like a chapter from the life of every girl? Definitely is!)

The book begins with Jean Louise returning to Maycomb from New York as a 26 year old woman. No more of walking around in nothing but her overalls. At first, she feels nothing has changed about her hometown. That things are just as they were, as if Maycomb stood still while the whole world around it changed. But a couple of days, and she begins to realise how wrong she was. The town, and most of the people, are just not the same. Some things have changed – for the worst or so she feels. She feels as if even the buildings in the town have secrets of their own, and were shooing her away.

All’s not well in Maycomb. The town and its folks, white and black, find themselves in the midst of a storm. And Jean gets entangled in it as well, not knowing what is right or wrong anymore. Atticus, her father, whom she idolized all her life, seems to have let her down, and she just can’t accept it. When she says – “But a man who has lived by truth—and you have believed in what he has lived—he does not leave you merely wary when he fails you, he leaves you with nothing. I think that is why I’m nearly out of my mind.” – your heart really goes out to her. And exactly how did he let her down? Well, that is for you to find out, isn’t it?

Go set a Watchman did bring a few shocks. And it wouldn’t be right for me to tell you what those are. I’ll give you a hint though – not all characters from TKMB live to see the revolution taking place in Maycomb. The rest is for you to deduce.

And yes, things might have changed- both in Maycomb, and with its citizens. But one thing that remains the same as far as Atticus and Jean are concerned is their conviction that no matter what, you’ve to trust your conscience, and do what you think is right.

The book, in the end, is all about finding your own footing, amidst the storm of existence.

So, if you’ve read TKMB, then do not fail to get a copy of GSW. If you’ve not read TKMB, you can still give GSW a try. But then, it would be akin to watching the final act of a 26 year long drama.

Two sides of the same coin
Two sides of the same coin

Favourites from the book:

Line– “Every man’s island, Jean Louise, every man’s watchman, is his conscience.”

Character– Tough one this.. In TKMB, Atticus was perfect.. above perfect perhaps. This book humanises him. I’d still go with Atticus.

But Jean Louise has to be at the top too.. She is you.. she is me (most of the times, it is almost like looking at myself in a mirror). You can’t be without liking yourself now, can you?

Takeaways– Your conscience will always be your best friend.


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