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I did it. I jumped on board the Harper Lee train. This book has been making waves in the literary world for weeks now and I had to see what the fuss was about. For those who don’t know: this book was recently released by the author of the famous To Kill a Mockingbird. Since she has never written another book it’s causing quite a stir, especially because it’s about the same characters as the first, and shows them in a very different light.

whatimreadinggosetawatchmanThe novel features the same cast of characters as To Kill a Mockingbird but 20 years later. Scout (called Jean Louise in this version) returns home for a visit from New York City and finds that her father Atticus and her boyfriend Henry have both succumbed to the racist ideas and culture of the South. Atticus is everyone’s favorite equal rights champion, so this came as quite a shock to his fans.

I think something needs to be made clear here. This is not so much a new novel as a first draft of To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s a writer sorting out her ideas and honing in on how to make the point she wants to. Some of the passages are translated directly into Mockingbird. As a writer I found it fascinating to see what she started with an how it changed. But I don’t think the characters in Mockingbird and Watchman are comparable.

whatimreadinggosetawatchman2I recommend this book especially to writers who are interested in process but also to Mockingbird fans. This is a portrait of what most families looked like in the South at this time. Atticus was the exception, here he’s the rule. I do also recommend re-reading Mockingbird beforehand. It makes the similarities and differences between the two even stronger.

What do you think, is the book a scam or is there benefit in seeing another side of our hero?

Photos by Jamie Ditaranto.

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