I don’t recommend trying to go to your local bookstore today. Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman came out this morning and there are, no doubt, long lines of To Kill a Mockingbird fans waiting to purchase it. I will not be one of them.
If you’ve been following this story, you’ll know that Harper Lee has prevented this book from being published for decades. She wrote it before she wrote her beloved classic, To Kill a Mockingbird, but has kept it secreted away for years. But now, as the author pushes 90-years-old the book is being published–most likely against her wishes and under very shady circumstances.
Meanwhile, early reviews have leaked a few important tidbits–like the fact that Atticus Finch is a racist in this book, and that it is, generally, kind of a mess. On the one hand, I don’t believe any book could have lived up to the legacy of To Kill a Mockingbird. If we had a National Book, this would be it. But I think there is something else at play here.
It won’t make sense to most readers that Atticus Finch–a sort of moral guidepost for generations of decent Americans–is an ardent racist. Where did the man who stood up to his town to help Tom Robinson go?
Let’s remember that Lee wrote Go Set a Watchman before she wrote our (unofficial) National Book. This was never meant to be a sequel. Really, it’s a different story that just so happens to have characters with familiar names. It’s pretty clear that Lee never intended for this book to be published (which makes buying it ethically dubious) and we should trust her judgement. She’s earned that respect.
I may pick up a used copy at my library book sale in the fall. I am confident that the hardcover table in the fiction section will be flush with them, but I can’t bring myself to line the pockets of a greedy publisher (shame on you Harper Collins) and the people who are mishandling a beloved author’s estate. Harper Lee eventually decided to tell a different story than the one in Go Set a Watchman. She never wanted us to read this book, so if you choose to, don’t be surprised when you are let down.