When I was in the fourth grade my mom gave me a copy of To Kill a Mockingbird with the hopes that I would fall in love with the beautifully written story the way she did. Being the sensitive child that I was, I rejected the idea of reading any book that had anything to do with the killing of an innocent animal, especially a bird! (At the time, my brother and I ran a sort of "bird hospital," in which my brother nursed back to health the birds which had flown into our floor-to-ceiling windows while I made chirping noises and basically did nothing of any real value.)
I was in the sixth grade when I finally gave the book a try, well, actually, the movie a try. My mom had found a VHS of the black and white classic (starring the studly and oh so handsome Gregory Peck) and I remember watching it, huddled under my blanket fort, weeping my eyes out when Tom Robinson was found guilty. I immediately picked up the book and finished it within a few days. And then, I read it again. All together now, I believe I have read that book eight times, a testament to my absolute adoration of the novel.
So, when I heard that Harper Lee was releasing a new book, I nearly died of excitement. Long, long months it was until the Go Set a Watchman release date finally rolled around and I was finally able to dive in to the most anticipated book of my time. To be honest, I was sorely disappointed, but mainly because I had set my hopes too high.
Overall, this book is very interesting, with allusions to TKAM, beautiful prose, and an interesting development of characters, which is both quite unsettling and unexpected. However, in juxtaposition to the masterpiece, this book was simply not very well written.
With that in mind, it is definitely worth a read. It is not exactly a sequel to TKAM, and if read as though it were, one will be disappointed (as I first was). The things that I as a reader came to love about characters were quickly tossed aside. Atticus, arguably the most noble of fictional characters of all time, becomes a bit of a bigot, Jem is killed off in the first chapter within a single sentence, and Scout (commonly called Jean Louise in this novel) becomes a bit whiny. There are numerous references to the politics of the day, without explanation of the events (e.g. references to a ruling by the Supreme Court, which, until I googled the ruling, I was completely lost).
I think that the most important thing to remember, though, is that TKAM had the benefit of being edited by a publisher- someone who could tell Lee where her strengths were, where she might be losing the audience, and how to enrich the story in order to make it the classic capable of withstanding the test of time. GSAW was simply published without any pre-publishing commentary. This book is, in a sense, raw.
Overall, if you loved To Kill a Mockingbird, it is worth the read. If you didn't, it isn't.
Until next time!