Up until today it has been thought that the Pulitzer Prize-winning author Harper Lee would be known only as the author of To Kill a Mockingbird. As her publicist announced today, that won’t be the case. The 88-year old Lee will be publishing a novel that she had originally written in the 1950s that has sat dormant for all this time, titled Go Set a Watchman.
In the mid-1950s, I completed a novel called Go Set a Watchman. It features the character known as Scout as an adult woman, and I thought it a pretty decent effort. My editor, who was taken by the flashbacks to Scout’s childhood, persuaded me to write a novel (what became ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’) from the point of view of the young Scout. I was a first-time writer, so I did as I was told. I hadn’t realized it (the original book) had survived, so was surprised and delighted when my dear friend and lawyer Tonja Carter discovered it. After much thought and hesitation, I shared it with a handful of people I trust and was pleased to hear that they considered it worthy of publication. I am humbled and amazed that this will now be published after all these years.
The novel will be published by American publishing house Harper. How much Lee will make from the publication and how much the novel will cost upon release was not disclosed, but the publisher plans a first print run of around two million copies when the novel releases in July. The publication deal was negotiated between Carter and Harper’s parent company, HarperCollins.
A full synopsis of the novel has not yet been released, but reports are that it takes place 20 years after the iconic story of To Kill a Mockingbird, and features a lot of the same contemporary themes from the 1950s when Lee was writing the original novel. Segregation, civil rights, and other strife of the ’50s will likely be present and felt throughout the book’s 304 pages.
To Kill a Mockingbird was an instant classic when it was published in 1960. Over the three years when the novel takes place, several important issues of the ’50s, ’60s and beyond were touched on with a warm style of humor and class that has not often been emulated since. To date, in its 55 years since publication, the novel has sold more 30 million copies worldwide and translated into more than 40 languages.
Harper Lee has spent most of her time since writing To Kill a Mockingbird out of the spotlight, so she is unlikely to do any publicity for this new publication. With just how far Mockingbird has seeped into popular culture, it will unlikely be necessary anyway to generate buzz for the book. Go Set a Watchmen will be only the second published novel of Lee’s in her lifetime
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Last Updated on November 28, 2018.