Go Set a Watchman – Harper Lee

Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee

It’s pretty bloody crazy that Harper Lee has another (only her second!) novel released and going back to Maycomb would OF COURSE£ be a dream. But having read reviews and articles, I’m scared that by reading it, I could change forever the way I see an iconic book – and an iconic character.


Go Set a Watchman features pretty much the same characters and intrinsic plot as To Kill a Mockingbird. The difference is, in this book Scout is twenty-six years old and referred to as Jean Louise. Er what, Jean Louise?!

Things just get crazier as we also find out it was actually written before To Kill a Mockingbird. Apparently Lee took it to her editor and was persuaded to do another draft that featured Scout as a child, with the story told through her eyes and more emphasis put on the relationship with her father Atticus. Sound familiar? Obviously this was to be To Kill a Mockingbird. And everyone loved it.

Of course anticipation for Go Set a Watchman was huge. Amazon recorded it as their second most pre-ordered book of all time – beaten only by Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows (absolutely justified). Buuuuuut I’m just not sure.

I’m mainly nervous because I’ve read that one of the finest literary creations of all time (if not THE finest) Atticus Finch, is not as… well not as kind and lovely as he was in To Kill a Mockingbird.

I get very attached to characters anyway and Atticus is such a perfect, brilliant creation. His kindness more than anything but also his intelligence, integrity and rational thinking. It helps that he was portrayed so fantastically by Gregory Peck in the 1962 adaptation but even without this movie, I’d still love Atticus. It’s hard to believe he’s not a real person.


I’ve read reviews of Go Set a Watchman that hint Atticus could be more of a bigoted character. I’ve read reviews saying things such as “everything we thought we knew about Mockingbird is up in the air” or “those who have read To Kill a Mockingbird will be shocked and even horrified by some of this book”.

Horrified?!!! I’m not sure I like the sounds of this.

I know without reading the book it’s hard to pass judgement but was any of this really necessary? One thing I suppose I would like to know, set all that time in the future – is if Dill is in it as an adult. Dill was the kid in To Kill a Mockingbird who stayed with his aunt and hung out with Jem and Scout. He told some sensational stories, just like the person he was based on – author Truman Capote! He and Harper Lee were great friends ‘back in the day’.


 “Mr and Mrs Lee, Harper Lee’s mother and father, lived very near. Harper Lee was my best friend. Did you ever read her book, To Kill a Mockingbird? I’m a character in that book, which takes place in the same small town in Alabama where we lived. Her father was a lawyer and she and I used to go to trials all the time as children. We went to the trials instead of going to the movies.”

Truman Capote


About emmakwall

Films, books, soundtracks, good humour
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54 Responses to Go Set a Watchman – Harper Lee

  1. lauren says:

    I haven’t actually read To Kill a Mockingbird (hangs head down in shame) but I loved the film. Not too sure about the new book. You’ll have to read it for me and let me know!

  2. table9mutant says:

    I’m really not sure if I’ll read this… I do like To Kill A Mockingbird & don’t really want it messed with. :-/

  3. You can read the first few pages on the Guardian’s website, or hear them read by Reese Witherspoon if you fancy. For what it’s worth, I read it and rate it as pretty poor. If it didn’t have Lee’s name on it I would have assumed it to be a second rate fan-fiction, to be honest..

    • emmakwall says:

      It’s okay I don’t want to hear Reese Witherspoon reading it 🙂

      Shame you didn’t enjoy it, but remember the book was written before Mockingbird as a draft so it’s likely to seem kinda….’unpolished’? 🙂

      What did you think of the story though? The characters and narrative?

  4. filmfunkel says:

    Personally, I’d want to learn more about a character who had transitioned from cruelty to kindness; as that character has not only a destination, but directions on getting there.

    But I totally respect the dread of watching a beloved character being defiled. I’ve never recovered from seeing Han Solo shooting second. : (

    • emmakwall says:

      Yes I agree entirely….. in theory 🙂

      I really do love the book. You know, there’s some things that you just never want ruined! Because what if it was? Where would I be then?

      It would be like someone taking your favourite singer or band away and saying sorry, you can’t listen to them anymore! I don’t know….

      Will you read it?

      And awwww at the Han Solo scene!!

    • filmfunkel says:

      Well, I’m not going to read it now because, in the few seconds since I made my uninformed comment, I learned it’s the same story and not an opportunity to see Atticus growth.

      So, like you, I’d be Tom Hanks losing Wilson. And who needs that?!?

      • emmakwall says:

        Yeah I was going to say that but I thought it just sounded pedantic.

        Harper Lee wrote it before Mockingbird, her editor liked it but told her to rewrite it with Scout as a child and more of a relationship with Atticus.

        I feel like this COULD be more of a ‘cash in’ book but Harper Lee herself seems happy enough so who knows.


        Would you rather lose Wilson or knock your tooth out with an ice skate?

    • filmfunkel says:

      For Wilson? I’d even use rusty jagged pliers that the set of Texas Chainsaw felt were too gruesome.

      No worries about being pedantic, me & my OCD over-analytical brain are looking at pedantic in the rear view mirror.

      • emmakwall says:

        You are funny!!! The rusty jagged pliers and looking at pedantic in the rear view mirror – really made me laugh!

        P.S I will reply shortly to three exclamation marks for Glee (!!!) and watching American Dad after Family Guy….. I haven’t forgotten 🙂

        Do you remember when Stewie is singing in the car and hits the handbrake shouting “I should be on Glee”?

        He says it normally at first, all whimsical “I should be on Glee!” and then he thinks about what he’s saying and the injustice that he isn’t in Glee.

        And he hits the handbrake in his frustration ha ha!

    • filmfunkel says:

      Yes, I do remember. I love that I giggled at his reference not having seen Glee. (Of course, it’s much funnier now.)

      Stewie did nothing but steal ground from Cartman over the years to their current neck-n-neck status.

      I love them both, but it’d be a Sophie’s choice to pick one. Who would you choose?…

  5. beetleypete says:

    I watched a review on BBC News 24. They said that many lovers of TKAM will be disappointed by the new book, which has a story-line that can be interpreted as racist. I haven’t read the original for over 40 years, but I have seen the film countless times since.
    Get your copy, and make up your own mind Em. I can’t see it diminishing your love for the characters, as long as you realise that they are all older, and attitudes change with age.
    Best wishes, Pete.

    • emmakwall says:

      Sorry Pete but I don’t think that will be happening haha….not least for a while!

      I don’t really see it as a “sequel” where the characters just got older – it was written before Mockingbird and Lee’s editor asked her to rewrite it with Scout as a kid – To Kill a Mockingbird.

      The story is the same, Atticus is a lawyer defending a black man accused with the rape of a white woman. So it’s the same story really, just told in a different way.

      I can never, in a million years accept that Atticus is racist or bigoted. He’s the kind of character that actually cheers me up! Someone to aspire to, to believe in!!

      I know it sounds OTT but it’s just the way I am. That’s why I never watched the Harry Potter movies for years. I couldn’t risk something I got so much pleasure from being ruined by bad choices.

      Thanks Pete, hope you’re well? Why don’t you read it and then you can tell me all about it? x

      • beetleypete says:

        I could add it to a long list of things to read, and wonder if I will live long enough to get around to it.
        If you are happy to give it a miss, just do that, and continue to remember the good stuff from the first novel.
        Or you could just watch ‘Infamous’, and see Sandra Bullock actually acting for a change, giving a convincing portrayal of Harper Lee in her prime, with Toby Jones wonderful as Truman Capote.
        All OK here thanks, the sun is finally out again today! x

        • emmakwall says:

          Yeah I know what you mean!! So much to read, not enough time.

          I have Infamous on DVD! I really like it a lot and I think it’s on a par with Capote. Even though it wasn’t as “big” as Capote, Toby Jones is SOOOOO good as Truman. This is not a slur on Philip Seymour Hoffman AT ALL but Toby Jones’ performance is more how I imagined Truman when reading his books and essays.

          I’m a huge Truman Capote fan, In Cold Blood is my all time favourite book.

          I know, a bit of sun in the UK aren’t we privileged!!!!!!!! Hope Ollie is getting some walks!!! 🙂 x

          • beetleypete says:

            PSH is a fine actor, but Jones steals the ‘Capote’ crown, at least in my book.
            Ollie’s just back from 90 minutes in the river, and on The Meadows, with some doggy chums. I posted a few photos yesterday. x

            • emmakwall says:

              I agree. I saw Capote first and it is wonderful but Infamous is sooo great (and how good was Daniel Craig?! I was surprised actually) it was nice to have more of the ‘society’ type stuff as well, more of a glimpse into his world and life. It was more comical as well, as light-hearted as a story like that could be.

              The only actor I really preferred in Capote was the police officer Dewy. I preferred Chris Cooper – he was ideal.

              Yay! I’ll take a look 🙂 x

  6. vinnieh says:

    Also, I;m just listening to the new podcast, sounds great so far. Looking forward to my shout out.

  7. theipc says:

    Great post, Clam!!! I’m nervous about this book too…… Let me know what you think if you read it!

    Love Pen!!!

    O _ o < 3 o _ O

  8. Yikes! This sounds like it could be bad. I completely agree with you on interpretations of character and how upsetting it is when they are contradicted by another source, usually the movie, not usually another book! Especially when it’s written by the same author! And ESPECIALLY so long after the originally release when the author KNOWS how beloved that character is!!!

    I LOVE To Kill a Mockingbird too and that love does heavily rely on Atticus. I’m really nervous about this now too, not to enflame your fears but this could deb awful.

    I’m actually feeling some anxiety.

    But I have to read it!

    No I don’t…

    YES I DO!

    • emmakwall says:

      Yes you do and then you can tell me!!!!

      I was leafing through it in a supermarket on my lunch break and it does look beautifully written and so easy to read but…………I just don’t know!

      I feel like this was just a draft novel really that led to Kill a Mockingbird, maybe now they’re just cashing in on it?! Mind you Harper Lee is happy enough about it.

      I probably will read it one day, I just don’t know. Maybe I’ll have to pretend Atticus isn’t Atticus!

      And I would love to read about Dill again 🙂

  9. Tom Schultz says:

    Fine novel and great movie. Excellent performance by Gregory Peck. Could’ve been his finest hour. Probably even better than his performance in 12 O’Clock High, though it pains me to say so. *winces* And how ’bout Robert Duvall’s debut as Boo Radley? It would be interesting to see what happens when the scene shifts from the 1930s to the 1950s. The social scene in this small southern town might be feeling the early effects of the civil rights movement. Yep, interesting.

  10. vinnieh says:

    Excellent post Emma.

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