Reading this nearly two years after it came out, and after I have read many reviews, it is hard to be objective. I knew the basic story before I started. I knew why so many people really didn’t like the book and why many others thought that it was an important sequel. And I basically agree with both sides.
Go Set a Watchman is the story of Jean Louise’s return back to visit her family as a 26 year old. She has been living in New York City and her distance from her family and the culture causes a culture shock. Her hero worship of her father is crushed when she see him (and his now law partner and her current love interest Henry) at a Citizen’s Council meeting.
The effects of culture shock, the shock of understanding parents and family and friends are human with weaknesses, the turbulence of a post Brown v. Board of Education world are all presented well.
But as a stand alone book, without the balance of To Kill a Mockingbird as the idealism that needed to be killed, this is a fairly weak book. There is too much didactic explaining and very little showing. And although it is part of the point of the book, Jean Louise still sees everyone as fairly flat characters, which doesn’t help.
That being said, Reese Whiterspoon is a perfect narrator. She has the right accent, the right sass, and the right emotions to make this a far better audiobook than I think it would be as a straight print book. This will be one of the books that I point to as an excellent narration.
This is the right book to give to people that want to ‘Make America Great Again’. That type of nostalgia is for people that only want to read to beauty and wonder of To Kill a Mockingbird without wanting to have the adult view of the world and its pain that we get in Go Set a Watchman. As many people have already said, Go Set a Watchman is the book that we need today with so many wanting to say ‘All Lives Matter’.