Harper Lee is releasing her first novel in 50 years. It is the long-awaited sequel to her first novel To Kill a Mockingbird, but is surrounded in controversy. Go Set a Watchman is set to be released later this year.
There has been mixed reactions from people around the world. While many are excited to hear that the sequel is being released, there are some who worry about the quality. Others even worry that the author has not had that much of a part in the writing of this novel. One thing that Charles J. Shields, a biographer, pointed out was that this was actually Lee’s first novel. She was a “beginning author” at the time of writing it, and it could mean poorer quality compared to her debut novel To Kill a Mockingbird.
Lee released a statement through Harper to discuss her new novel. The 88-year-old said that this novel was completed during the mid-50s, and features Scout as an adult. While she believed that the novel was good, her editor wanted her to write To Kill a Mockingbird. She was so taken by the flashbacks that she wanted something from the younger version of the character. That led to her debut novel and Go Set a Watchman was left behind.
As a beginner author, she just worked on the new book, never realizing that her original novel survived all this time. Tonja Carter, lawyer and friend of the author, found it and presented it to her. She shared it with people she trusted afterwards to see if she should publish it, and was delighted by the feedback.
Lee will release her first novel in 50 years, which is one of the biggest breaks between novels for authors. There are many wondering how she could just forget about a book, and that has led to the questions over whether she really wrote it.
The 88-year-old lives in a Monroeville assisted living center. The town was used as the layout for Maycomb, the fictional town in her debut novel. While her hearing and eyesight are failing and she is in poor health, a friend has confirmed that she has a good state of mind.
Jonathan Burnham, a publisher at Harper, says that he has not had a direct conversation with the author. All communications have been through Andrew Nurnburg, her literary agent, and Carter. However, he was confident that the author has had full say in the release of her original novel. Lee was last seen in public in November for her sister’s funeral.
The novel will be released on July 14. It is set in the 1950s, and will follow Scout as she returns home to see her father Atticus Finch. During the novel, she will try to understand her father’s attitude, her own feelings and the political and personal issues surrounding her in the town she used to call home. It is the sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird, which won a Pulitzer Prize and was turned into the popular movie in 1962. There may be questions over the sequel, but Lee says that she is excited about her first novel in 50 years being released.
By Alexandria Ingham
Photo by Eric Draper – Public Domain