7 September 2015 | Adult Fiction

Go set a watchman

Go set a watchmango set a watchman
Harper Lee
William Heinemann

The story: This book, of course, follows the same characters from To kill a mockingbird, published in 1960. This time, the setting is the same in Maycomb, Alabama but twenty-six year-old Jean-Louise Finch is no longer called Scout and she is merely visiting her father, Atticus, from New York City.

The highlights: I have to say, I wish I hadn’t read this book! Like many readers, I loved To kill a mockingbird and I was keen to read the book that started Scout, Jem and Atticus’s story. But this book is a first draft. It was originally rejected by publishers. Harper Lee was advised to rewrite it, focusing more on Jean-Louise’s childhood memories. And Harper Lee did rewrite it, or used those childhood flashbacks to create a fresh manuscript which became To kill a mockingbird. Lee claimed she would never write or publish another novel. Certainly, there are a few versions of the story to publication for Go set a watchman – The New York Times had an interesting piece on it which you can read here.

I’m interested to know whether you have read it, and if so, were you glad or disappointed in it? Let me know in the comments!

In conversation with Hanya Yanagihara



Thanks for the review Karen. So much press sharing your sentiments but I didn’t realise that it was a first draft – which now makes sense. It’s a shame that the publishing money making business got in the way and just hope that there’s more people who haven’t read it and can have and keep the fond memories of To Kill A Mockingbird.

September 10, 2015 at 7:27 pm


Karen – I was so disappointed and feel like I got caught up in the hype too much. There was such great expectation when I heard that it was going to be released and when I read, I felt like I was cheated but also a fool for believing the marketing spin.

Atticus is such a powerful and memorable figure in Mockingbird and I missed Jem. It did, as you mention, read like a first draft but I didn’t know this going into it.

Maybe it’s just that expectations were too high but I found myself sad after reading it.

Thanks for the New York Times piece – I also liked the review from Jennifer Byrne – not sure if you saw that one as well.

September 10, 2015 at 7:42 pm

Karen Comer

I missed Jem, too, Anna. And I agree with Jennifer Bryne’s opinion that Harper Lee could see a need for an older brother in Watchman, and so created one in Mockingbird. It is an interesting exercise in reading a first draft and then reading the published book – it’s just that all of us read the final draft first!

September 10, 2015 at 7:56 pm

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