I’ve now read Go Set a Watchman and recommend it highly. I don’t know, of course, if Harper Lee really wanted to publish it, or what she thought in the 1950s and 1960s or later or thinks now about it and To Kill a Mockingbird and their overlapping characters. I do know that Watchman has a strong plot, gripping writing, and really important ideas to consider about race, constitutional law, Brown v. Board of Education, the Supreme Court, etc. It’s a book for general readers, including Mockingbird lovers – assuming that Miss Lee thinks this is a finished book and wanted it published, she really aimed it at Mockingbird lovers, with concern to assist their growing up. (And note that she published this more complicated, adult portrait of “Atticus Finch,” a character that obviously is based on her father Amasa Coleman Lee, long after his death in 1962; she published Mockingbird, with its earlier, simpler and (maybe) heroic Atticus, in 1960, while her father was living.) Watchman is, in addition to literature that I think is great and will last, a book for anyone who is interested in U.S. history. And, yes, it’s a book for lawyers, law students and law professors. (Nuggets: it has a great wisecrack about Eleanor Roosevelt and mentions Alger Hiss and – a first in fiction? – Supreme Court Justice Owen J. Roberts.) [Hat tip: Brad Snyder, who got to that late page mentioning OJR before I did.] So very seriously, buy the book and read it.
This post, with some footnotes and a photograph of Justice Roberts’s June 30, 1945, retirement letter to Chief Justice Stone, now is on the Jackson List archive site in “book look” PDF file form.