Read by Janelle: September 2015 – Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee

Go Set A Watchman

by Harper Lee

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Published 2015

Genres: Fiction / Literary

“He began dating her on her annual two-week visits home, and although she still moved like a thirteen-year-old boy and abjured most feminine adornment, he found something so intensely feminine about her that he fell in love. She was easy to look at and easy to be with most of the time, but she was in no sense of the word an easy person. She was afflicted with a restlessness of spirit he could not guess at, but he knew she was the one for him.”

Janelle says…

So, I have read it. Well actually, that’s not entirely true.

I couldn’t ignore the hype, the controversy, or the significance of this book. The story of its discovery through to its publishing, with all the conjecture and divided opinion in between, was completely fascinating. Personally, I don’t believe this manuscript was published with the blessing of Harper Lee. If she was in fact of sound enough mind to consent to its publishing, and the words that announced the publishing did in fact come from her own hand, then why would she sit idly by while the motives of her spokesperson and friend, Tonja Carter, were repeatedly questioned by readers and the media? Wouldn’t she have spoken out to defend her? And why would she have waited so long to publish it? I can’t believe she merely “forgot it existed” once To Kill A Mockingbird once released.

Then again, who am I to comment on how Harper Lee’s mind works?

You might have heard that in Watchman, we learn that Atticus Finch has become somewhat racist, whereas in Mockingbird he was an advocate for racial equality. And there was a definite turning point in this book where that change of heart became apparent, but in my opinion, the discovery of it wasn’t quite shocking or raw enough to warrant the chapters and chapters of Jean Louise’s (Scout’s) grief and outrage that followed. I was expecting something else I guess, maybe some kind of explosive verbal diarrhoea on his part and then gasps and tears all around…….and it was mellow compared to that expectation. I felt like yelling at Jean Louise to just confront him about it already so we could all move on!

There also seemed to be a lot of nothing much happening. I found that I was sitting down to read, and after about a page or so, I would turn to my phone or the TV instead – I was looking for something to distract me from the boredom of continuing to read.

Considering this book was published in the form of the unedited manuscript that was found, I was surprised at how few errors it contained. There were definitely a few, but I was expecting more. However, it was clear to me that a number of areas would ideally have been cut back, had they been edited.

While I was reading, I kept asking myself whether it should be a prerequisite to read Mockingbird before reading Watchman. I think the answer is yes, because if you read Watchman first without any context as to the time or the place or the people or the cultural and social agenda at the heart of the story, you would probably dump this book by page 50. If you’ve read Mockingbird already, there’s a chance you might just finish Watchman. As it turns out, I didn’t finish it. I gave it a good 190 pages before I bailed. I’m not usually a book-quitter, and I really did want to see this one through. But in the end, my interest just couldn’t be revived, and I couldn’t be bothered sticking with it for the remaining 90 pages.

I would absolutely recommend that you Kill A Mockingbird, but I wouldn’t endorse Setting A Watchman.

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

DNF (Did Not Finish)

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Read together: August 2015 – The Farm by Tom Rob Smith

August 2015 – Mel’s choice

The Farm

by Tom Rob Smith

The Farm

Published February 2014

Genres: Fiction / Mystery / Thriller

“Had I chosen blindness, I’m quite sure Hakan would’ve celebrated my choice, delighting in my surrender and rewarding me with a host of friendships. But blindness is not an easy path. It requires commitment and dedication. The price was too high: I would become an imitation of Elise. Perhaps she was imitating a woman before her, perhaps this pattern of blindness was generations old, women forced to empty their heads of questions or criticisms, playing a part that was as old as these farms – the part of loyal devotion – a role that would bring me acceptance, maybe even happiness of a kind. Except when I was alone. I’d hate myself. It’s how we feel about ourselves when we’re alone that must guide our decisions.”

Daniel believed his parents were enjoying a peaceful retirement on a remote farm in Sweden, the country of his mother’s birth. But with a single phone call, everything changes. 

Your mother…she’s not well, his father tells him. She’s been imagining things – terrible, terrible things. In fact, she has been committed to a mental hospital.

Before Daniel can board a plane to Sweden, his mother calls: Everything that man has told you is a lie. I’m not mad…I need the police…Meet me at Heathrow. 

Daniel is immediately caught between his parents – whom to believe, whom to trust? He becomes his mother’s unwilling judge and jury. Presented with a horrific crime, a conspiracy that implicates his own father. Daniel must examine the evidence and decide for himself: who is telling the truth? And he has secrets of his own that for too long he has kept hidden…

Mel says…

I read a couple of reviews on The Farm and from those reviews, I immediately wanted this book in my life. All the reviews said the same thing, read this now! 

From the first 10-odd pages of this book, I was captivated. Within sentences, the author has this adventure off and running. The main plot focuses on a series of events, told to Daniel by his mother, Tilde. During the chain of events, I found that I was wanting to jump into the book and play detective, right beside Tilde.

As the story progresses, I found myself concocting all kinds of possible outcomes and reasons for the series of events. I knew there would be more to each event than was being presented, and wanting to find these reasons out as soon as possible pushed me to zoom through this book faster than any other in a long while.

By the time I finished the book, I was bewildered and shocked. I love books that take many twists and turns to end up in a place you had no idea existed. This book is a must read for anyone who enjoys an unpredictable storyline and outcome. For anyone who is looking to discover that not everything is quite as it seems. Get on down to your local bookstore or library and pick The Farm up today!

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

Janelle says…

When Mel suggested this book for our next joint read, I actually hadn’t heard of it. So I looked up the summary on Goodreads, and I believe my reply to her was something like, “Holy cow! Get this book in my face right now!”

I knew it was going to be suspenseful, I would be plagued with questions the whole time, and I would not want to put it down. And it delivered!

The Farm wastes no time getting down to business. You’ve barely learnt the names of the main characters when BAM! The rollercoaster begins, and it feels like with each turn of the page you change your mind about who you believe, who is in the wrong, and who needs saving.

The overarching themes here, are secrets and trust. Secrets from people who you’re not supposed to have any secrets from. Secrets that threaten to hurt or destroy. Secrets that are too unfathomable to be believed. Questioning the long-held trust you’ve had in your loved ones. Not knowing who to trust in desperation. Not knowing if you can trust yourself.

I really did blast through this book at speed, but the one small thing that let it down for me was its style. The majority of the book is written from the POV of the mother telling her complex story to her son as a chronological order of events, in the hope that he will believe her story if she has shown evidence and clear facts to substantiate her claims. But there was something about the language, it felt far too formal for me to believe it was a mother speaking to her son, even if what she was relaying was a detailed series of events, rather than just casual chit-chat. The language she was using was more conducive to a job interview than speaking to a member of her family. I couldn’t naturally envision the scenes in my head as I was reading, and it irked me.

Having said that though, that is no reason to overlook this book. If you enjoy suspenseful thrillers (like me!), with a little emotional trauma and dysfunctional family dynamics thrown in, then I think you’re gonna love The Farm.

Rating:

Did not like it  –  It was ok  –  Liked it  –  Really liked it  –  It was amazing

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