Waterstones Book of The Year Shortlist: Go Set A Watchman

Posted on 17th November 2015 by Sally Campbell
Eight titles have been nominated for the Waterstones Book of The Year Award and we will be profiling one title a day for the next eight days. Our second profile: Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee

Go Set A Watchman was one of the most anticipated novels of the century so far – from the first rapturous announcement of its existence to the final, nerve-wracking minutes before the book hit the shelves, expectation reached fever-pitch. And rightly so.

The novel tells the compelling and touching story of a household divided along a fault line of principles. At its heart, there is the girl we knew as Scout, a woman now, known as Jean Louise, who must face the uncomfortable truths behind what she believed had been an idyllic childhood spent under the supervision of her civil rights activist father in Maycomb, Alabama. 

It asks readers to confront our assumptions about some of literature’s most loved and admired characters too. Like Jean Louise, we must adjust to the dark and somewhat frightening concept: we never truly know anyone, even those that seem the most familiar to us.

This explosive narrative depicts the tensions and frustrations that erupted when Northern values sat across the table from Southern ones, in nineteen fifties America. And how families tried to reconcile their love for each other with their hatred for each other’s beliefs.

Our Booksellers were as excited as they were honoured t6 get behind this astonishing book. We held events up and down the country, with Southern-style hospitality, cake and cocktails, and there were special midnight openings too. Take a look at some of the highlights:

Some of our booksellers couldn’t wait until morning and starting reading straight away, they were so thrilled. In the words of Joe Knobbs: “Seeing Scout as a grown woman, grappling with change, working out what the world is and where she belongs on it, is completely gripping.”

Our booksellers and customers rushed to share their glowing reactions in the following days:

“So, the long wait's over, and what have we got? The short answer is a masterpiece.” Nick Walden, Waterstones Customer

“While To Kill A Mockingbird was a naive look at "the old south" and racial tensions from the viewpoint of a child, Go Set A Watchman tackles those problems straight on, during a massive period of change at the beginning of the social rights movement. It's much more nuanced and complex than Mockingbird's simple and universal approach.” Pete, A Bookseller, Nottingham

It is a vital story – one that serves as a nuanced historical document of the civil rights era in a small Southern American town. And it is a story that you, like our booksellers, are going to read all through the night.

When you finish, your only regret will be that we have read the last of Maycomb, and of the inimitable Jean Louise Finch.


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