Entertainment & Arts

Go Set a Watchman: A speedy read

Anne Jones finished Go Set a Watchman in just over 25 minutes Image copyright PA
Image caption Anne Jones finished Go Set a Watchman in just over 25 minutes

Just after 08:00 BST, speed-reader Anne Jones switched on her reading lamp and opened a brand new copy of Go Set a Watchman.

She had expected to finish Harper Lee's much-anticipated novel in about 40 minutes.

In the event, the six-time world champion speed-reader took just 25 minutes and 31 seconds to get through all 278 pages.

"It was a page turner," she said shortly after finishing the novel at Forum Books in Corbridge, Northumberland.

"I wanted to know happened. It was really funny in places. I was laughing at the scenes of Jean Louise [Scout] at her first dance."

Go Set a Watchman contains some of the same characters as Lee's 1960 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird, including Scout and her father Atticus Finch.

Image copyright John Williams
Image caption Helen Stanton (left), owner of Forum Books in Corbridge, Northumberland, with speed-reader Anne Jones (right)

The new book has already proved controversial as early reviews noted that in later years Finch is a racist who seems to support segregation in Alabama.

"Atticus is presented as being as a bigot but I think it's because times have changed," said Ms Jones. "In To Kill a Mockingbird the white and black people live separately. In Watchman people are coming to terms with a new status quo.

"What Harper Lee does brilliantly is she explores relationships between Jean Louise and various relatives. At the end of the day we still love our family even if we disagree with them. There's quite a lot of conflict and a very sensitive exploration of these issues."

Atticus Finch wasn't the only revelation. "I think the feminist aspect is something people will notice. Jean Louise is an independent spirited young girl who is turning into an opinionated and strong woman."

Before she read Go Set a Watchman, Ms Jones has expressed trepidation as to whether it would stand up against To Kill a Mockingbird, which she describes as a "perfect book".

"Go Set a Watchman doesn't quite reach that standard but it is a great read in itself. It is something that a fan, like myself, will really enjoy reading."

She plans to read Harper Lee's new novel again at her leisure: "Normally I'd be reading this in two 45 minute bursts - with a cup of tea in between."

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