When Lee finally does get to the main story--that of Jean Louise's discovery that her father, Atticus Finch, and her beau Hank are anti-desegregation--the writing came alive, for awhile. Her dialogue became sharp and her prose incisive. However, Lee wasn't able to sustain her flashes of brilliance and the novel meandered as Jean Louise fell into stream-of-consciousness wrestling with her new reality and how to reconcile it with her memories of being raised by Atticus and their housekeeper, Calpurnia.
This is an ambitious story arc, and I think the editor who rejected Lee's manuscript was right. To Kill a Mockingbird is a much tighter story, with clear cut villains and heroes and a moral center that is undeniable. It's an easier story to tell and more suited to Lee's style as a writer.
I don't have a problem with the story of Go Set a Watchman--that of an idealist returning home to find her heroes have feet of clay and having to finally start to think for herself. I just don't think Go Set a Watchman tells this story very well. I never really believed that Atticus kept his racism completely hidden from Jean Louise her entire life. How could she, who claimed to be "color blind," never have seen what her straight talking father believed? It's not like she never returned home for visits.
Despite it's problems, I want to reiterate that there is some powerful writing in Go Set a Watchman--the scene in which Jean Louise argues with Atticus is one of the saddest scenes I've ever read, but in the end, I just didn't believe it. Lee never made me believe that Jean Louise was duped by her own father. And the first job of a writer is to make the reader believe that what he or she is saying is true, insofar as creating a believable world, no matter how fantastic or far-fetched it is.
Go Set a Watchman laid out the bones of a story that needed to be reworked and rewitten and revised and shaped and pruned, but it never was.
While Lee developed To Kill a Mockingbird out of the backstory contained in Go Set a Watchman, it's too bad she didn't tackle the "you can't go home again" part of Go Set a Watchman and give us a novel that works.
The editor who rejected this novel all those years ago was right. This novel wasn't ready for publication.