Go Set a Watchman By Harper Lee (Supposedly)
AKA An utter abomination to the literary world.
Otherwise know as a complete waste of paper.
People often think of ‘One Hit Wonder’ as something undesirable or negative. But is it really such a bad thing if your “One Hit” earned you Pulitzer Prize, Presidential Metal of Freedom and a National Medal of the Arts among other things? Published in 1960 Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mocking Bird was an immediate best seller and remains so to this very day. The venerable Lee’s sole contribution to the world of literature is a highly renowned classic that came awfully close to claiming the title “Great American Novel” which seems so very elusive in the literary world.
My freshmen year of high school we were assigned the book To Kill a Mockingbird for my honors English class. It was a book that resonated with me to the extent that I reread it over and over again during Algebra for nearly an entire semester. That probably explains my horrifically embarrassing grade in algebra and my apprehension concerning the release of Go Set a Watchman. I should also add that I attended a very “un-diverse” high school in a highly diverse area…in the south. So segregation was not unfamiliar to me. Upon its alleged “discovery” Go Set a Watchman set the literary world into a feed frenzy. Excitement, speculation, amazement, fears all swirled around like the spun sugar in the cotton candy maker. Could it really be so? After all this time?
Despite the fact that is was only just published Go Set a Watchman is already a NYT best seller with a very controversial provenance. “Discovered” among her personal things some 50+ years after the release of her only full length book despite the fact that she has been quoted on numerous occasions stating that she will not publish anything else has certainly called some interesting things into question. However, knowing that I would be reviewing this book for our marvelous library patrons I refrained from getting all caught up in the drama and hoopla. I avoided the reviews and articles that talked about the release of Watchman until after I’d finished the book lest my options be biased leaving me unable to be objective. Plus I was already skeptical.
My honest, unbiased opinion is that this book was abysmal. The writing was sloppy and hard to follow. The characters lacked depth and substance. I frequently had to re-read whole paragraphs trying to siphon even an iota of meaning or understanding. Half way through the book I asked myself “What is this even about?!??” The book gets a little closer to finding its stride past the half way point but even then it isn’t great or very concise. Quite frankly the ending left me confused. I wonder if it was just a sloppy and abrupt ending or if the writer attempted to covey something very different but lacked the literary skills to pull it off successfully. Either way I didn’t really care since I hadn’t formed any attachment to the rather shallow characters. In the end it left a very bad taste in my mouth which I intend to wash away with several books about dragons, Merlin and the like….
I found this article very enlightening after the fact. http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/25/opinion/joe-nocera-the-watchman-fraud.html
By Crystal McKissick