by Harper Lee
25 Words or Less:
A tomboy once called “Scout” returns home as a young woman named Jean Louise Finch, to find the threats of adult life waiting for her.
Formatting, Grammar & Spelling:
The text is American English, and unsurprisingly for a book so anticipated it seems every care has been taken to keep it polished to a mirror shine — no errors noted is how I’d normally put it. However, on this occasion I’m not reviewing an Amazon sample, I read the excerpt provided on The Guardian’s website, which has had similar care and attention lavished upon it to very pleasing effect.
The opening chapter is clear and pleasant and instantly reminiscent of the easy style of To Kill a Mockingbird. There’s not really much more to say about Harper Lee as a writer: she was good from the start.
As an aside, I’m listening to Reece Witherspoon’s reading of the chapter as I write this up, and it is absolutely excellent: perky then murmured, conversational and confiding, all the dialogue given a spark of life. Very nice.
Narrative, Characterisation & Dialogue:
Was I enticed by the story so far? Yes, though much of the opening chapter is recap of missed years: Jean Louise Finch travels by train into her past, to visit her ageing father, Atticus, back at the town she grew up in. She is met at the station by her occasional beau, Henry Clinton, who greets her with passionate kisses before driving them on towards her childhood home.
We are brought up to speed about details of life intervening between then and now, much of it more melancholy than nostalgic: we learn that there is both past and present sadness in the Finch family, and Jean Louise’s character is shown to have deepened from the stubborn tomboy of the first book into a young, determined spinster-by-choice of this second.
This means the love Jean Louise feels for Henry isn’t quite that which he has for her, and–bearing in mind that this is a book written in the 1950s, when mainstream notions of what makes for a good woman were, shall we say, rather particular–this seems to point towards a story crafting strong themes about society and individuality, just as did its predecessor.
Ordinarily, an ebook costing over $10 doesn’t force my hand to a purchase, and I’m not buying this one now — however price is not the reason in this case. This is a book I want to own on paper, but there’ll be a slight delay before I can. No biggie. The world has waited longer than I’ve lived for this, I can wait a little bit longer,
Go Set a Watchman eases the reader back into a life first seen fifty-five years ago, and leaves this reader torn: sad that Harper Lee didn’t write more books, but grateful that her second promises to be as precious as the first.
I originally posted this in my TO BUY LIST, but the more I’ve heard about the publishing situation the less urgent my desire to read has been. I’m sure I will read it, one day, but i’m happy having enjoyed the final draft of to kill a mockingbird – I don’t really have to read the early first draft too…
= Technicalities =
Title: Go Set a Watchman
Author: Harper Lee
Price: $13.99 (July 2015)