Book Review: Go Set A Watchman

Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee has certainly created controversy in the reading world. Even if you’re more of an occasional reader, you’ve probably heard something about either the release of the book or the story itself. Some people believe it was published without the author’s consent. Others disagree.

Many have expressed disappointment with the characters in the novel and feel the book just doesn’t compare favorably with Lee’s first book, To Kill a Mockingbird.  With 11,000+ reviews on Amazon, there’s definitely an interest in reading it. No doubt it attracts those who are serious fans of Harper Lee.  In addition it appeals to readers like me with an interest in knowing what all the hoopla is about.

I first read To Kill a Mockingbird  in high school. I remember liking it but not a lot of details about the book. Initially I was very excited to read Watchman. The high expectations about the book really heightened my interest.  After it’s release,  it received mixed reviews and I thought I’d pass on it. However, still curious about it, I saw it at the library and picked it up. Must say, I didn’t like it at first. There was a lot of talk about what daily childhood life was like in the South during the 1940’s. As someone who grew up on the west coast, this was not something I could relate to.  We didn’t go to fishing holes, ride in trucks or sweat out the summer heat in San Francisco.

So why post this review on the blog? The book clearly spoke to me about the aging experience.

Reading more of Watchman, I found aspects I could relate to.  I liked reading about the main character’s (Scout) memories of her dad, family and friends. She found what she remembered about them from her youth really contrasted with the reality of what they had become. Her dad aged and she found that hard to deal with. She didn’t agree with his political beliefs and discovered that he was no longer someone to idolize as she had as a young person. As a result, he turned out a real human. She had a really hard time accepting that.

Once you have that first smack in the face reality that your parent(s) were real people with lives of their own, it’s an uncomfortable feeling. Especially relevant, understanding it and accepting it are a struggle. Reading about how it is not just something unique to your life helps make the information easier to accept.

Seems like as you age, you begin to see your parents for what they truly are.  Sometimes they impress you and other times, you are skeptical. Regardless of how you view them, you have to accept that life has changed. Like it or not, it’s all part of the aging process. It wasn’t (and isn’t) simple for me.  I saw my young adult self in Scout and understood how she was feeling. That connection made the book memorable for me.

Therefore, debate continues on about this book and if publishing it was the right thing to do.  I appreciated it for the simple truths of what we learn about our parents as we get older. There’s been disappointment that it doesn’t portray the characters just as they were in To Kill A Mockingbird but I look it as a successful stand alone story with a universally appealing theme that we grow smarter as we age.


The Retirement Style Blog routinely discusses a variety of retirement transition issues. For a full framework of retirement resources, please visit our Retirement Success Series. To speak with a certified retirement coach about your personal needs, please contact us.

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Showing 2 comments
  • Carla

    Great review, Deborah! I’ve also been on the fence about picking up Watchman, but now I’m even more curious. I started to have the “whoa, my parents are real people!” epiphany a few years ago too, so it’s definitely something I can relate to.

  • Deborah Williams

    As long as you go into with the idea that you aren’t getting another “To Kill A Mockingbird,” I think you will like it. You should write a blog post about when you discovered your parents are real people!

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