An announcement last week that famous author Harper Lee would be publishing another book stirred up a frenzy of attention, both in the publishing industry and in the hearts of readers everywhere who treasure her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, To Kill a Mockingbird.
Lee (now 88) wrote the unpublished novel, titled Go Set a Watchman, in the mid-1950s prior to To Kill a Mockingbird. On the advice of her editor, she expanded on some of the scenes in Go Set a Watchman to create To Kill a Mockingbird, which Lee went on to publish as her first and only novel. After its publications she never wrote another and abandoned her career as a writer.
Published in 1960, To Kill a Mockingbird told the story of a black man falsely accused of raping a white women in the Depression-era deep south. From the BBC: “A lawyer named Atticus Finch defends Robinson in court. The frenzy stirred up by the case and her father’s quest for justice are seen through the eyes of Finch’s six-year-old daughter Scout. The book explores issues of race, class and the loss of innocence.”
The book very quickly became a success and has enjoyed distinguished status as a classic of American literature every since. It was no surprise then that the announcement that Harper Lee would publish another book was greeted with much excitement.
Go Set a Watchman features many of the same characters from To Kill a Mockingbird. From the BBC:
Set in the fictional southern town of Maycomb during the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman sees Scout return from New York to visit her father, the lawyer Atticus Finch. According to the publisher’s announcement: ‘She is forced to grapple with issues both personal and political as she tries to understand her father’s attitude toward society, and her own feelings about the place where she was born and spent her childhood.’
The manuscript for the story was found by Tonja Carter last year among Lee’s things. Lee said of its discovery and publication:
‘I hadn’t realised 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.’
The initial print run of Harper Lee’s novel is expected to be 2 million copies. To Kill a Mockingbird has sold more than 40 million copies.