Mixed reviews, mega sales: Looking back at 'Go Set A Watchman'

Last year, Harper Lee published her second book, "Go Set A Watchman." Though it was greeted with mixed reviews, it became an overnight bestseller.

See Full Article

Here is what The Associated Press wrote about the book in advance of its publication in July:

Like her classic "To Kill a Mockingbird," the Harper Lee novel coming out Tuesday is a coming of age story.

And not just for Scout Finch.

"Go Set a Watchman" is set in the famous fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama, in the mid-1950s, 20 years after "To Kill a Mockingbird" takes place. Scout Finch, now a grown woman known by her given name Jean Louise, is visiting from New York, unsure of whether to marry a local suitor who she has known since childhood and enduring a painful contrast between her new life and the ways of her hometown.

Scout is no longer the tomboy we know from "Mockingbird," but has transformed from an "overalled, fractious, gun-slinging creature into a reasonable facsimile of a human being." She is "oppressed" by Maycomb, finds it petty and provincial. And she is shaken by the response to Brown v. Board of Education, the landmark Supreme Court decision in 1954 that declared segregation in schools is "inherently unequal."

There is nervous talk of blacks holding public office, and marrying whites. One prominent resident warns Scout that the court moved too quickly, that blacks aren't ready for full equality and the South has every right to object to interference from the NAACP and others.

"Can you blame the South for resenting being told what to do about its own people by people who have no idea of its daily problems?" he says.

That resident, to the profound dismay of his daughter, and likely to millions of "Mockingbird" readers, is Atticus Finch.

"First Woody Allen, then Bill Cosby, now Atticus Finch," tweeted New Republic senior editor Jeet Heer, responding to early reports about the book. "You can't trust anyone anymore."

In "To Kill a Mockingbird," winner of the 1961 Pulitzer Prize, Atticus risks his physical safety to defend a black man accused of rape. He invokes the Declaration of Independence during the trial and argues for the sanctity of the legal system. Privately, he wonders why "reasonable people go stark raving mad when anything involving a Negro comes up."

"I just hope that Jem and Scout come to me for their answers instead of listening to the town. I hope they trust me enough," he says, referring to Jean Louise and her older brother.

In "Go Set a Watchman," a 72-year-old Atticus laments the Supreme Court ruling and invokes the supposed horrors of Reconstruction as he imagines "state governments run by people who don't know how to run 'em."

A tearful Scout tells the man she worshipped growing up: "You're the only person I've ever fully trusted and now I'm done for."

Lee's attorney, Tonja Carter, said she discovered the book last year. It has been called by Amazon.com its most popular pre-order since the last Harry Potter story. Anticipating fierce resistance to the portrayal of Atticus, publisher HarperCollins issued a statement late Friday.

"The question of Atticus's racism is one of the most important and critical elements in this novel, and it should be considered in the context of the book's broader moral themes," the statement reads.

"'Go Set a Watchman' explores racism and changing attitudes in the South during the 1950s in a bold and unflinching way."

Lee is 89, living in an assisted facility in her native Monroeville, Alabama, and has not spoken to the media in decades. In a statement issued in February, when her publisher stunned the world by announcing a second Lee novel was coming, she noted that "Watchman" was the original story.

"My editor, who was taken by the flashbacks to Scout's childhood, persuaded me to write a novel (what became 'To Kill a Mockingbird') from the point of view of the young Scout," she said.

HarperCollins has said "Watchman" is unaltered from Lee's initial draft.

The current book will certainly raise questions, only some of which only Lee can answer. Why did she approve the book's release after seemingly accepting, even welcoming, the fact that "Mockingbird" would be her only novel? How well does she remember its contents? Did her editor resist because of its political content? How autobiographical is "Watchman," which roughly follows the path of Lee's life in the 1950s? Does she consider the Atticus of "Watchman" more "real" than the courageous attorney of "Mockingbird"?

And how surprised should any of us be?

Atticus is hardly the only old man to fear change, or seemingly enlightened white to reveal common prejudices. Around the time Lee was working on "Watchman," an essay by Nobel laureate William Faulkner was published in Life magazine. Faulkner had long been considered a moderate on race, praised for novels that challenged the South to confront its past. But in "A Letter to the North," he sounds like Atticus as he considers the impact of the Supreme Court ruling.

"I have been on record as opposing the forces in my native country which would keep the condition out of which this present evil and trouble has grown. Now I must go on record as opposing the forces outside the South which would use legal or police compulsion to eradicate that evil overnight," he wrote.

"I was against compulsory segregation. I am just as strongly against compulsory integration. ... So I would say to the NAACP and all the organizations who would compel immediate and unconditional integration 'Go slow now. Stop now for a time, a moment."'



Advertisements

Latest Entertainment News

  • Film about 1960s black mathematicians tops box office 2nd week in a row

    Entertainment CTV News
    NEW YORK -- "Hidden Figures," the uplifting film about African-American mathematicians at NASA during the 1960s space race, led the North American box office for the second straight week, selling $27.5 million in tickets over the Martin Luther King Jr. Source
  • Tom Hardy, Aidan Turner front-runners as next James Bond

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Tom Hardy, Aidan Turner, and James Norton have emerged as the latest front-runners to succeed Daniel Craig as James Bond. The three actors are 3/1 to take on 007 when Craig decides to step down as the superspy. Source
  • CBC News nabs dozens of Canadian Screen Awards nominations

    Entertainment CBC News
    Flanked by its flagship news broadcast, local reporting and special programming, CBC News is set to march in to the Canadian Screen Awards with 33 television nominations. The National picked up eight nominations — four of them coming from the Best News or Information Segment, which has five total nominees — while TV newsmagazine the fifth estate nabbed four and consumer advocacy program Marketplace three. Source
  • Sam Moore to sing at Trump inaugural event

    Entertainment CTV News
    NASHVILLE -- Sam Moore of the soul duo Sam and Dave has been added to the list of performers for President-elect Donald Trump's inaugural events. Moore told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he felt that the criticism levelled at singer Jennifer Holliday, which led to her to back out of the event, was unfair. Source
  • Police: Man posed as Bieber online to extort nude photos

    Entertainment CTV News
    LOS ANGELES -- A Massachusetts man was arrested on suspicion of soliciting nude photos from a 9-year-old California girl while posing online as Justin Bieber, authorities said Tuesday. Bryan Asrary was taken into custody Dec. Source
  • Man posed as Justin Bieber online to extort nude photos: police

    Entertainment CTV News
    LOS ANGELES -- A Massachusetts man was arrested on suspicion of soliciting nude photos from a 9-year-old California girl while posing online as Justin Bieber, authorities said Tuesday. Bryan Asrary was taken into custody Dec. Source
  • 'He's got a big mouth, like me:' Soul singer Sam Moore signs on for Trump inauguration concert

    Entertainment CBC News
    Sam Moore of the soul duo Sam and Dave has been added to the list of performers for President-elect Donald Trump's inaugural events. Moore told The Associated Press on Tuesday that he felt that the criticism levelled at singer Jennifer Holliday, which led to her to back out of the event, was unfair. Source
  • 'Heyyyyy!' Critch and Chachi bring their Twitter battle to 22 Minutes

    Entertainment CBC News
    St John's comedian Mark Critch and Happy Days star Scott Baio will try and put their twitter feud behind them on tonight's episode of CBC's This Hour Has 22 Minutes.Chachi trolls Critchi: Comedian Mark Critch gets a rise out of Scott Baio"I have no idea who you are. Source
  • Chris Pratt talks 'sexy' cameo on wife's show: 'We've been rehearsing that for 10 years'

    Entertainment Toronto Sun
    Chris Pratt has joked he’s been preparing for a “sexy scene” with wife Anna Faris on her sitcom Mom for the “past 10 years”. The Scary Movie actress has made no secret about wanting Chris to guest star on her U.S. Source
  • Fans celebrate Betty White on actress' 95th birthday

    Entertainment CTV News
    Betty White says the best thing about being 95 is that she's still employed. The actress is celebrating her birthday Tuesday. She tells Yahoo's Katie Couric that she's "most grateful" for still getting job offers. Source