‘Go Set a Watchman’ by Harper Lee ~ Musings on the ‘Watchman’ Release by an Author & Bookseller.


Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee
Release Date: 14th July 2015.

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‘Go Set a Watchman’ by Harper Lee ~ Musings on the ‘Watchman’ Release by an Author & Bookseller.

Today is the publication date for Harper Lee’s ‘Go Set a Watchman’, and having been involved in some of the pre-release hype in my role as a bookseller, I have a lot of thoughts that I felt compelled to share.

‘Go Set a Watchman’ was actually Harper Lee’s first novel. Set twenty years after the events of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, Lee’s ‘Watchman’ manuscript was her first foray into the world of the Atticus and Scout that readers know and love today. ‘Watchman’ wasn’t published. Instead her editor expressed an interest in Scout’s story as a child which had been hinted at throughout the ‘Watchman’ story. And so, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, one of the most popular modern classics was born.

‘Mockingbird’ was Lee’s only published book until today. Keen to live a solitary and private life, she rarely, if ever gave interviews about her writing or life. She also put ‘Watchman’ away, never to see light of day again.

The media has had a field day as the ‘Watchman’ release approached. Expectant readers have been both excited and horrified at the idea of a second ‘Mockingbird’ novel, riled up by the early reviews posted.

And so begins the criticism.

‘Why on earth would Atticus be a raging racist?’ some people have questioned, ‘It makes no sense.’

‘Hasn’t the time of Mockingbird passed? This is just another ploy she’s had to make money.’

And, my favourite, said to me by a bestselling children’s author who shall remain unnamed.

‘Well, it wouldn’t have been published if she really didn’t want it to be. If it’s terrible she’ll only have herself to blame.’

Can you see what is wrong with this, already?

First off, let’s look at the story.

As previously mentioned, ‘Watchman’ is set twenty years after ‘Mockingbird’. Twenty years. A lot can happen in that time. If Atticus has turned into a ‘raging racist’, then rather than expressing disbelief at it, why not read the story and look at what has happened to Atticus in the intervening time between the novels that may have affected Atticus’ feelings on racial equality?

Again mentioned before ‘Watchman’ was written before ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’. These were the characters that Lee first knew. As an author I can attest to the fact that characters are constantly changing. If a book has taken more than a year to write and has a number of drafts, looking at the first draft compared to the last, will show just how much the characters have changed based on the story that they have been telling. So in ‘Watchman’ Atticus isn’t the fair-minded man we knew and loved in ‘Mockingbird’, but maybe that’s because after writing ‘Watchman’ and then reverting back to Scout’s childhood, had in fact made Lee change her mind about how she wished Atticus to be portrayed. Maybe she felt that she felt more connected to the characters that she had written in ‘Mockingbird’ than she had in ‘Watchman.’

Now lets look at today.

Harper Lee is 89 years old, and lives in an assisted care home after suffering from a stroke, and from reports of friends and associates; may suffer from dementia. Was she truly in her right mind when she agreed for ‘Watchman’ to be published after having hidden it away for years? Yes, some may say, of course she was, otherwise it wouldn’t have been published.

If only it were that simple, but I’m afraid that it probably isn’t.

What I hope to have expressed in this post, is that potential readers of ‘Go Set a Watchman’ read the book with an open mind. Don’t flame Harper Lee for publishing a book that she may not have wanted to see published. Don’t criticise the characters and the story in ‘Watchman’ when it is likely not to have been re-drafted or edited by Lee herself after the publication of ‘Mockingbird’.

And finally, please don’t let this book or how you may feel about it impact on your feelings for ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ as the wonderful and inspirational modern classic that it is. Let them be separate books, with separate circumstances, and enjoy them each for what they are.


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Writing Prompt of the Day…Day 4 – Happily Ever After

Everyone loves a happy ending.

Maybe it’s a reunion between family members, maybe it’s a couple finally getting together after fighting through every obstacle that comes between them.

My prompt for today is to write a story based on the prompt ‘Happily Ever After’ in a short story of 1500 words or less.

It can be about any theme you want, just make sure there’s a happy ending of some kind 🙂


Writing Prompt of the Day…Day 3 – Despair

If you look into the face of someone who is in despair, what do you see?

Are they crying? Do their eyes speak words that they can’t express through their pain? How do you know that it’s not just sadness but a deep despair instead?

Try and answer these questions in a short story of 1500 words or less. Try and understand what the character is going through, their thoughts, feelings, the physical symptoms of such a strong emotion, and most importantly, what has caused them to feel such despair.


Writing Prompt of the Day…Day 2 – Tears

Recently, whenever I have read a book in which a woman is badly treated by someone, or they feel upset about something, I’ve always felt furious that they never cry, and instead carry on as normal.

Maybe it’s just me, as I know that I’m quite an emotional person, but I hate that characters don’t seem to cry enough!

Crying is important. Everybody needs a good cry once in a while, it’s therapeutic and makes you feel so much better. So why is it that so few heroines seem to cry?

I’m not suggesting that a character should cry every time something goes wrong, but why shouldn’t they cry when something really affects them, and they feel at a loss of what to do.

So give your girls some therapeutic crying and venting time. They deserve it just as much as we do!

So here is my writing prompt of the day: Tears.

Whether they are happy or sad tears is up to you, but tears are important and everyone has the right to cry.