Go Set a Watchman

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Go Set a Watchman:  From Harper Lee comes a landmark new novel set two decades after her beloved Pulitzer Prize-winning masterpiece, To Kill a Mockingbird.
go-set-a-watchmanMaycomb, Alabama. Twenty-six-year-old Jean Louise Finch–“Scout”–returns home from New York City to visit her aging father, Atticus. Set against the backdrop of the civil rights tensions and political turmoil that were transforming the South, Jean Louise’s homecoming turns bittersweet when she learns disturbing truths about her close-knit family, the town, and the people dearest to her.
Written in the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman imparts a fuller, richer under- standing and appreciation of Harper Lee. Here is an unforgettable novel of wisdom, humanity, passion, humor, and effortless precision–a profoundly affecting work of art that is both wonderfully evocative of another era and relevant to our own times. It not only confirms the enduring brilliance of To Kill a Mockingbird, but also serves as its essential companion, adding depth, context, and new meaning to an American classic.
Published in 2015, 288 pages.
Description from catalog.
Harper Lee:  To spend an hour in Monroeville, Alabama, is to know why Harper Lee, the author of To Kill a Mockingbird, ranks as one of the crankiest writers on the planet. 03-harper-lee-2-w750-h560-2xStrongly inclined to put aside the hype and hoopla and let literature speak for itself, Lee, the best-known native of the town (pop. 6,372) that served as the model for her novel’s Maycomb, has found herself living a short drive from one restaurant called the Mockingbird Grill and another named Radley’s Fountain, after Boo Radley, the character in Mockingbird who might be voted Least Likely to Become a Restaurateur. That would be a mere T-shirt’s toss from a gift shop peddling Mockingbird hats, tote bags, necklaces, Christmas ornaments, refrigerator magnets, wrist bands (inscribed “I see it, Scout, I see it!”) and paper fans. The gift shop is in the venerable courthouse where as a child Lee watched her father practice law, and which she later rendered so vividly in her book. The courthouse has long since been turned into a Mockingbird museum, to the delight of a constant stream of camera-toting tourists, foreign and domestic. I sympathize with Lee, who has steadfastly refused to take part in the merchandising of her most famous accomplishment. Life can’t be easy when everything you hate about success stands between you and the Piggly Wiggly.

Discuss
Topics the book will bring up for discussion include:

  • Describe the relationship between Jean Louise and Atticus at the beginning of the novel. Does Jean Louise idealize her father too much? How does she react when she discovers that her father is a flawed human being? How does this discovery alter her sense of herself, her family, and her world? By the novel’s end, how do father and daughter accommodate each other?
  • Is Henry like Atticus, his mentor and friend? Is Jean Louise’s assessment of Henry later in the novel correct? Are Henry and Atticus good men? Can you be a moral person and hold views that may be unacceptable to most people? How do Atticus’s actions toward the blacks of Maycomb compare with his views about them?
    For more discussion questions go to LitLovers.com

Enhance

  • Listen to Harper Lee, in her only recorded interview, talk about her reaction to the critical acclaim surrounding Mockingbird.

Interact

Joe Nocera writes an Op-Ed in the New York Times dated July, 24, 2015:

…”that the publication of Go Set a Watchman constitutes one of the epic money grabs in the modern history of American publishing.”

Do you agree?  Was Harper Lee duped or did she knowingly sign off on publishing Go Set a Watchman?  In the end, is the book good enough that it doesn’t matter or should the manuscript have stayed “lost”?  Post your group’s discussion.