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Go Set a Watchman

A Novel
Written by: Harper Lee
Narrated by: Reese Witherspoon
Length: 6 hrs and 57 mins
4 out of 5 stars (37 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

An historic literary event: the publication of a newly discovered novel, the earliest known work from Harper Lee, the beloved, best-selling author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning classic To Kill a Mockingbird.

Originally written in the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman was the novel Harper Lee first submitted to her publishers before To Kill a Mockingbird. Assumed to have been lost, the manuscript was discovered in late 2014.

Go Set a Watchman features many of the characters from To Kill a Mockingbird some 20 years later. Returning home to Maycomb to visit her father, Jean Louise Finch - Scout - struggles with issues both personal and political, involving Atticus, society, and the small Alabama town that shaped her.

Exploring how the characters from To Kill a Mockingbird are adjusting to the turbulent events transforming mid-1950s America, Go Set a Watchman casts a fascinating new light on Harper Lee's enduring classic. Moving, funny, and compelling, it stands as a magnificent novel in its own right.

©2015 Harper Lee (P)2015 HarperCollins Publishers

What the critics say

"All [characters] are portrayed by Witherspoon with perfect pitch and pacing, and the sure hand of a talented actress who is well aware of the region's racially fraught past." (AudioFile)

What members say

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  • Overall
    3 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

Do NOT Judge Watchman to Mockingbird

Go Set a Watchman is its own story. Yes, it has the same gentile voice and brutal reality Harper Lee is known for, but this story is its own morality play reflective of that conflicted era when the South was going through growing pains in terms of Black & White equality, and how small town views were slow to catch up, even with good-hearted souls like Atticus Finch.

Many reviewers disliked Harper Lee's portrayal of Atticus in Watchman, her staining the moral authority he was known for in Mockingbird, but Nell was right to do this, for even in those days, the righteous could be less than perfect. The entire country was having to readjust their views on Blacks, and to portray Atticus as above all that would have been false. He knows associating with racists was wrong but in that society oftentimes you have to befriend the enemy in order to change him into a friend who can eventually see the light.

I would have given Watchman a higher rating but Lee spends quite a bit of time in what I feel is soap-box narration, and although I see why she wrote it as she did, the lectures take away from the story and you end up popping out of the story bubble in some places.

It couldn't have been easy when Lee wrote this as so much of her time was spent with Truman Capote in Kansas re: the Clutter murders investigation, and she felt she had to "maintain" as per the Pulitzer on Mockingbird. To attempt a sequel in this mindset and to meet readers' expectations of her, I feel it would have been better had she left the idea of a sequel alone and wrote something altogether different. Then years later, attempt Watchman possibly when emotions - writer and reader - had settled.

Nell Harper Lee, I will so miss her gentile voice and her brutally honest societal takes. To lose her feels as if you've lost a Faberge egg - something so utterly priceless never to be had again.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

Good read

So so sequel. Bringing Jean louise of age, and showing Atticus in a different light.

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    4 out of 5 stars
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  • Tee
  • 2019-04-22

One episode in the future of To Kill a Mockingbird

I enjoyed the story despite some of the negative reviews.

I would describe it (simplistically) as one key life-changing episode in the Finch household, many years after the events in To Kill a Mockingbird. Although it is just one episode, I feel that the story has deep takeaways, and makes one reflects on our own values and self-preservation instincts. I wish there was more to it, because Harper Lee surely has more reflections in her to offer. But it is what it is; it’s just one episode. Which perhaps is just why this novel leaves a sense of disappointment - disappointment that Harper Lee had not gone further in her writings to explore / expound deeper, but not (at least for me) disappointment in this story.

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  • Sara
  • 2015-07-15

To Kill A Mockingbird vs Go Set A Watchman

I hesitate to step into the turmoil of writing a review here of this newly released and much anticipated novel from Harper Lee. Like many of the reviewers here on audible I read and loved To Kill A Mocking Bird as a child and watched the movie and fell in love with the characters and the south portrayed so beautifully. Like many, the movie subtly took over for the book in my mind, without my awareness and I remembered them as a blur together.

Several months ago I decided to reread To Kill A Mockingbird. Goodness was I shocked. It was not the story from the movie, not the beloved book from my childhood, not a book for children. In the end, a much darker and more forbidding tale than I had remembered. Much of the deeper story had eluded me as a child. As an adult a new story line, even a different book appeared. Mockingbird became a raw, multilayered look at life, families, and the rough and often hateful ways people treat others--neighbors, enemies, children and friends alike. Filled with hypocrisy, double standards and shameful behavior exposed through the eyes of a child, Scout.

I read all the back stories about this new manuscript and I was filled with anticipation for this "adult" book from Harper Lee. My understanding is that this book, Go Set A Watchman, was not a "reject" as suggested here; but that the publisher wished to soften the story by changing the perspective and having the words and social commentary come from the voice of a child. This change in focus made it easier to get a difficult message across without offending the target audience. To me, Go Set A Watchman, is a very different, very adult book. Not easily read by any means, and at the same time impossible to put down.

My advice is to keep an open mind and give this beautiful book a chance. It is not often in a reader's life that we are given a chance to experience a world, created by an author, "age" and to see the characters come full circle to adulthood. I for one view this as a gift and a surprise I never in a million years expected. They are each good and valuable books and harsh comparisons are a waste. My suggestion is to read both books, allow them a chance to stand on their own and decide for yourself. To me it was definitely worth the time. I loved it.

402 of 437 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
  • M. Mao
  • 2015-07-24

Ignore the reviews, just read the book.

Despite all the controversy surrounding this novel, even negative reviews from my favorite magazine The New Yorker, I choose to decide for myself, and the verdict is I Loved it. My only memory of To Kill a Mocking Bird was from the school days, and the book title was the only thing I remembered. So I dived in without any preexisting expectations.

I can use more words to describe how wonderfully complex and enjoyable and at times tormenting the novel is, but truth is, if you have at anytime in your life witnessed any form of prejudice, and felt uneasy, you will be able to relate with Scout.

Here is my favorite Quote:

“Prejudice, a dirty word, and faith, a clean one, have something in common: they both begin where reason ends.”.

102 of 121 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Mark
  • Waltham, MA, United States
  • 2016-08-20

Flawed but interesting after reading To Kill...

To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my all-time favorite novels, and so I had to read or listen to this. Reese Witherspoon as narrator made it easy for me to opt for the audiobook. In this, Scout Finch is a 20-something, living in New York, and visiting her hometown in the south. She is trying to figure out which world she belongs in. This is a very flawed novel, with very little happening. It was hard to stay focused for the first half of the novel. Harper Lee does succeed in making the time and place come alive (the 50's in the south).There is an authenticity that is often lacking when modern authors try to take us back to that same place and time. Harper Lee is a very good writer, but there is so little plot here, that the story does not really stand on its own. That said, I did enjoy the second half because I already had a strong relationship with the main characters from To Kill a Mockingbird. This novel had some strong moments, and I am glad that I listened. Reese Witherspoon was a perfect narrator.

14 of 17 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • B.B.
  • 2015-12-15

good book, bad performance

I think the book was good overall. Alot of back story had to be filled in to get to the final message off the book, which seemed anticlimactic but a good message. Because of this the story could get slow in some spots. I was really hoping to enjoy Witherspoon reading, but found it difficult to follow dialogue between characters because she wouldn't change her tone often and when she did it was comical, it was like she was a teacher changing the voices in a story for a group of preschoolers. If another person would have read it, it would have been better.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Allison
  • 2015-07-28

Awesome

I'm a African American male and I must say this book made me think of things differently. It made me open my eyes to all the different people and different viewpoints of not only the south but the world. We are so quick to group people together that we forget that we're all individuals.

71 of 91 people found this review helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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  • Abby
  • 2016-02-08

Atticus was ruined forever

The story itself was quite good and it really made me think. However, this is not a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird as some might have you believe. This is the rough draft of To Kill a Mockingbird. The changes between the two are dramatic and it's quite clear that Go Set a Watchman was never meant to be published.

If you're willing to accept that this is not a sequel and have the character of Atticus tainted forever, the story is quite thought provoking.

7 of 9 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Daniel B. England
  • Fairfield CT
  • 2015-07-22

Better than Mockingbird

Would you consider the audio edition of Go Set a Watchman to be better than the print version?

While To Kill a Mockingbird has all the elements of a noble American tale (and all the drama that the cinema demands), this is actually the better book. It is more complex and nuanced. It is also the perfect for the current debate in American about the Confederate Flag, which is both a symbol of the Southern culture and the continuation of racism. The people in the book, including Aticus Finch, do not believe they are racist, a delusion that affects many people today. Well written and well structured, this is the book that Harper Lee should be remembered for. Mockingbird was a screenplay.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Go Set a Watchman?

The conversation between Scout and her father.

Which character – as performed by Reese Witherspoon – was your favorite?

Scout.

If you were to make a film of this book, what would the tag line be?

Disturbing and prophetic.

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • Douglas
  • 2015-07-14

Rich, Ornate Prose

Harper Lee’s sequel to her classic To Kill A Mockingbird does not disappoint. Scout has transcended the innocence of her childhood and now must face head-on the moral problems that she was only able to see through her father’s eyes in the first novel… To put it bluntly: with Stephanie Myers, E.L. James and all the other dreck dominating sales, this novel comes like a soothing summer breeze on a stifling hot southern night. Read it slowly, and enjoy quality writing again.

157 of 223 people found this review helpful

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  • Daniel D Weston
  • 2015-07-18

Time to grow up

Wherein those who loved the moral clarity of "To Kill a Mockingbird" can finally, like Scout, accept that heroes are fallible, life is more complex and interesting than fairy tales, and that being "color blind" means seeing only in black and white.

Professional literary critics have been tripping over themselves to denounce Watchman for being no Mockingbird, but so what? I am not the same reader as I was in high school and no longer need virtue fed to me. Sentimentalists who worship Harper Lee the way Scout did Atticus deserve their fate.

This book is worth your time and money.

30 of 45 people found this review helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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  • S. Roberts
  • 2015-07-25

More than delighted!

Based on reviews, I was not expecting this be as good as To Kill a Mockingbird. The reviewers were wrong in my estimation. This book explains so much of the conflict the Southerners faced over civil rights. It was explained on a deeply human level. Reese Witherspoon is a real southerner and we were not subjected to a fake southern accent. I love this book!

18 of 27 people found this review helpful