Rachel Grate
July 14, 2015 10:39 am

To call today’s publication of Go Set a Watchman merely exciting would be an understatement. The discovery of the manuscript from To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee rocked the literary community, and people have been scrambling to get their hands on a copy ever since. But now that some people have read the book, their reactions have been a little, well, confusing.

Reviews are decidedly mixed: NPR called it “a mess,” The New York Times calls it “fascinating” yet “disturbing reading.” So to get to the bottom of how quickly we need to run to the bookstore, we turned to the experts we trust the most: other authors who have been filling Twitter when their thoughts, opinions and feelings about the publication of the book.

Joyce Carol Oates: Go Set a Watchmen is being billed as a sequel, because the timeframe is later than To Kill a Mockingbird. But actually, Lee wrote Watchman first, as part of her original manuscript. Joyce Carol Oates (author of We Were the Mulvaneys) points out that it was a good editor who told Lee to take the characters she had in Watchman and transform them into the ones we know so well from Mockingbird. 

Joanne Harris: Joanne Harris (author of Chocolat) kept her lips sealed on Twitter but published an entire review of the novel in The Daily Mail.

“This is not an easy book,” Harris writes. “It is a story about coming of age, brutally, into a changing world… But reading it, we can begin to see how far we have already come towards Scout’s dream of equality and how far we still have to go.”

Judy Blume: As usual, we can turn to Judy Blume with the ultimate advice on how to live our lives, and what to read. She links to an article from The Guardian  that wisely observes that the harsh criticism following the release of the new book explains why Harper Lee had shied away from publishing again until now.

The article explains that “unreasonable expectations” can make it easy to dismiss Lee’s new novel because it can’t possibly take the place of To Kill a Mockingbird. But it was never meant to, and shouldn’t be judged merely in comparison.

John Green: While John Green hasn’t tweeted about reading the book yet (probably too busy promoting the Paper Towns premiere!), it’s clear he’s excited to do so for the same reasons as Oates. Green retweeted a New York Times feature on the editor who helped transform the dark complexity of Go Set a Watchman into an uplifting classic novel.

The verdict? Read the book, but as its own story, as a peek into the workings of a great author’s process, and not as the next American classic.

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