Tuesday 14 July 2015

Why I'm not reading Go Set A Watchman

For months, the question a few people have asked me is 'Are you going to read Harper Lee's new book'? On hearing that Go Set A Watchman (GSAW) was some sort of sequel or prequel to To Kill A Mockingbird (TKAM) and that there was controversy around its publication, my alarm bells started ringing.

TKAM is one of my favourite novels. I recently re-read it and enjoyed it far more than I did when I was at school. This is partly because it's a novel legendary in its stand alone character and it is symbolic of much that is very personal to me, its reader. A bit like an impressionist painting, for me, it artistically captures a moment. While the characters are very much alive for me, I've locked them in that moment and tied them to TKAM's form. And so, I didn't particularly wish to visit a story about Scout in adulthood. And, on hearing snippets from naughtily early reviews about a different characterisation of Atticus, I was quite certain that this was not somewhere that I wanted to go in my fiction reading.

My gut instincts were calmly saying ' No, I'll not read it,' but my curiosity and raised sense of excitement at the huge publication promotions, meant that not having a copy of this brand new GSAW made me feel left out. This side of me was screaming, "Go read it now!'

But the gut instinct niggled and then, a review out today and some critics who criticise the other critics and readers, pulled me back and out of the hype. GSAW is a novel that was rejected for publication and was then reworked into TKAM. In terms of novel development, GSAW is a draft in the publishing (or writing) process. From this perspective, it may be wonderful for literary theorists and students of literature. But, in this instance, my curiosity as a reader doesn't stretch that far, and for now, I'm sticking with the original legend. In my head, To Kill A Mockingbird is as real as fiction gets.