Critics dub GSAW 'edgier, more ambitious'

Critics dub GSAW 'edgier, more ambitious'

Critics have said the newly published Harper Lee novel Go Set a Watchman is more "edgy" and "ambitious" than To Kill a Mockingbird, even if it shows a lower level of literary skill.

Arifa Akbar in the Independent said it would not be possible to read To Kill a Mockingbird in the same way again after publication of Go Set a Watchman, in which key character Atticus Finch appears not as a liberal champion of race equality, but as a man who once attended a Ku Klux Klan meeting. "It is not a finely written story – this reads as a 'good' first draft which Lee has refused to rework", but "it is the more radical, ambitious and politicised of the two novels Lee has now published," she said.

Robbie Millen in the Times agreed, saying Go Set a Watchman was "not as polished nor as sharply written as its sister novel" and not "as moving or funny". But he said: "It is however more edgy and thought-provoking. For all its flaws as a novel, it has a power to it beyond being a mere historical curio or more lit crit material for Harper Lee studies."

Gaby Wood in the Daily Telegraph gave the novel only two stars out of five, highlighting its literary failings, such as "several passages of undigested shouting, of the kind a student might write in a political pamphlet" while central character Scout is "fraught and sanctimonious."

In the Daily Mail, Joanne Harris highlighted Scout's discovery that her father Atticus Finch "is not the fearless champion for racial equality she has always believed him to be", saying: "This is not an easy book. It is a story about coming of age, brutally, into a changing world."

Read The Bookseller's review here.