First Quarter of the Book: (pages 1 – 70)
Go Set A Watchman (GSAW), generally accepted to be an early draft of Harper Lee’s classic, To Kill A Mockingbird, is too analogous and yet too dissimilar to To Kill A Mockingbird.
The novel starts off with Jean Louise Finch, now 26, traveling back to Maycomb country from her home of New York. Immediately, one is struck with the contrast of the quality of writing — while To Kill A Mockingbird was almost enjoyable to read, the sentences in Go Set A Watchman are rather utilitarian: “For another thing, flying home meant her father rising at three in the morning, driving a hundred miles to meet her in Mobile, and doing a full day’s work afterwards: he was seventy-two now and this was no longer fair” (3). Disappointingly, most sentences in the novel follow this paradigm.
The story follows Jean Louise, grown yet no more mature, and her interactions with her elderly father, her boyfriend, (with whom her relationship is quite confusing), and Aunt Alexandra. Jem is dead. While it is interesting to contemplate what happens after the events of TKAM, this perspective is undeniably less intriguing, perhaps because there is no main conflict in the first quarter. The only entertaining parts of the book have been: the skirmishes between Jean Louise and Alexandra such as, “‘Aunty,’ she said cordially, ‘ why don’t you go pee in your hat?'” (38); and the flashbacks to Scout’s youth, of which I hope there will be more.
The only good thing, other than the heated dialogue and the single flashback, is that the characters are well developed and realistic as of page 70: Scout’s transition into Jean Louise is believable; Alexandra is still just as obnoxious as ever. Indeed, the passage describing Alexandra hardly changes from GSAW to TKAM: “To all parties present and participating in the life of the county, however, Alexandra was the last of her kind: she had river-boat, boarding-school manners; let any moral come along and she would uphold it; she was a disapprover; she was an incurable gossip. When Alexandra went to finishing school, self-doubt could not be found in any textbook, so she knew not its meaning; she was never bored, and given the slightest chance she would exercise her royal prerogative: she would arrange, advise, caution, and warn” (28). This differs from the description in TKAM by only one phrase; everything else is word for word. This overlap has occurred several times throughout the first seventy pages, and, frankly, I do not approve.
Last of all, the words in my edition of Go Set A Watchman are far too large, and the line spacing is equally frustrating.