I had a different post planned for today, but I was having some trouble putting it together, so it’s been postponed until Friday or sometime next week. Instead, I have an early version of On the (Audio) Bookshelf.
I have a confession to make (although I have already confessed it on the blog): I wasn’t a fan of TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD. I also feel that it’s unfair for me to say this; I read the novel once, when I was thirteen, and it didn’t capture my attention. I also watched the movie and felt the same about it as I did the book. So when I heard about GO SET A WATCHMAN I wasn’t sure I’d read it. I had no desire to read the book, but I was curious, especially with all the discussion that was taking place: should it be released, how to read it, etc. Eventually, I decided that as a book blogger and as someone who has studied literature for a long time, I should read this book. But instead of reading it, I decided to listen to it on audiobook. Reese Witherspoon is the narrator and I thought this would help me stay motivated to read it.
This isn’t going to be a long or detailed review, because I feel like I’m not ready to talk about this book in depth at this time. I don’t remember much about MOCKINGBIRD and I’d want to go through WATCHMAN one more time before sharing thoughts on the internet, so here are some surface-level thoughts that I would want to know when deciding whether or not to read the book.
I’ve read a lot of critiques of the writing, but since I listened to it, I didn’t have a big issue with it. I’d need to see it to be able to pick up on some of the things that people have discussed. However, others have discussed how little editing this book went through (like Modern Mrs. Darcy) and I think it’s helpful to remember the background: this is a draft that was originally rejected and the editor asked Lee to write a different version of the story. There wasn’t a lot of time between the discovery of the manuscript and publication, so it should probably be expected that it might be a bit of rough.
There are some story lines that are still a little murky when I think back on them. I don’t know if this is because they weren’t developed well, or if it’s because I listened to it and there were times that I wasn’t fully engaged with the story. This is another reason why I’m not ready to write an in depth review.
There were times the book lost my attention, but something always happened that drew me right back in. I would say that in the last half of the book I was into it more than I was out of it.
Over the years I have thought about rereading MOCKINGBIRD. I’ve wondered if I’d connect with it differently now that I’m older and I wanted to have a greater appreciation for the novel because so many people love it–including my 8th grade English teacher, who I had a lot of respect for so I always wanted to see what he saw in the book. (I’ve also wondered what he thinks of WATCHMAN, based on some of the things I remember him discussing in class.) A couple of years ago I bought a copy of the book, but never picked it up. Reading WATCHMAN has created a greater desire to reread MOCKINGBIRD and at this point, I’m planning to read it in 2016.
I thought Reese Witherspoon did an amazing job as narrator of GO SET A WATCHMAN and made it easier to “dip my toes” into this book. Witherspoon’s narration was so entertaining and I think this drew me into the book more than if I had been reading it. Also, listening to it masked some of the writing issues that others have critiqued. As I was nearing the end of the book, I bought the ebook over Thanksgiving break when I saw that it was on sale. WATCHMAN created the desire to reread MOCKINGBIRD, along with the desire to read this book again so that I can see the words and take in the text that way.
Should you feel obligated to read this book? No. But if you’re on the fence about whether or not to read it, I highly recommend that you try the audiobook. I’m glad I listened to it. I think it gave me a greater interest in the story than I would have had on my own and now I have the interest and motivation to revisit a beloved classic.
All of this is to say that I didn’t hate it. In fact, I kind of liked WATCHMAN. It gives you a lot to think about and I’ve been thinking about it a lot since I finished it.