Michael Skube pens book review of ‘Go Set a Watchman’

The associate professor of communications and Pulitzer Prize recipient wrote a review of author Harper Lee's long-awaited second book for The (Raleigh) News & Observer. 

Associate Professor Michael Skube
Michael Skube, an associate professor in Elon University’s School of Communications, published a book review of Harper Lee’s “Go Set a Watchman” in the July 18 edition of The (Raleigh) News & Observer. Titled “‘Watchman’ a truer novel than ‘Mockingbird,’” the review explores the novel’s background, its themes and content, as well as how it relates to Lee’s only other book, the Southern classic “To Kill a Mockingbird,” which was published in 1960.

From Skube’s review: “In transforming ‘Watchman’ into ‘Mockingbird,’ Lee produced an unrecognizably different novel, even though Atticus Finch and Scout are at the center of both. But this is not the Atticus readers thought they knew.”

Published on July 14, the book has made headlines for its depiction of Atticus Finch as a racist and bigot. Nonetheless, book sales have been staggering with more than 1.1 million copies sold in North America in its first week, according to The New York Times.

Skube’s review touches on several topics, including the story’s racial strife and tensions, as well as the novel’s use of offensive language. In fact, Skube points out that Lee’s novel – originally written in the mid-1950s – predicts several outcomes of the civil rights movement.

​According to HarperCollins Publishers, “Go Set a Watchman” was the novel Lee first submitted to her publishers before “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Assumed to have been lost, the manuscript was discovered in late 2014.

Harper Lee's “Go Set a Watchman” was published in July 2015 by HarperCollins Publishers. Image courtesy of HarperCollins Publishers
​Considering the time – 55 years – between Lee’s two published novels, “To Kill a Mockingbird’s” critical acclaim, and the circumstances of how the novel came to bookshelves today, Skube understands the interest in the book’s release and interpretations.

Skube wrote: “Little wonder, then, that “Go Set a Watchman” should be the most remarkable story in publishing in years, with a first printing of 2 million copies and all manner of attendant publicity.”

Skube is a former book editor at The (Raleigh) News & Observer. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Criticism and the American Society of Newspaper Editors Award for Distinguished Commentary in 1989, while he was working for the Raleigh-based paper. He has also served as a Pulitzer Prize juror many times and chaired several Pulitzer juries.

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