Three days ago, the publishing world was rocked by the news that 55 years after Harper Lee published her first—and, so far, only—novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee’s publisher plans to release a new one. The book, currently titled Go Set a Watchman, will be published July 14.
The Associated Press reports that Lee actually finished the 304-page novel in the mid-1950s—before Mockingbird was published in 1960—but Lee was persuaded by her editor to re-work the characters and flashback scenes in Watchman into the iconic masterwork we all know today as To Kill a Mockingbird.
Lee says she was surprised to stumble upon Watchman again last fall in a safe deposit box, after her attorney sister (who had protected Lee’s privacy) had died and friend and attorney Tonja Carter took over.
“After much thought and hesitation,” Lee says in a statement, “I shared [the manuscript] 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 new book will be tied to Lee’s first. Scout Finch, the little girl at the heart of To Kill a Mockingbird, returns home two decades later as an adult in Go Set a Watchman. She has left New York City for the fictional Maycomb AL to visit her lawyer father, Atticus.
There, 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.” Watchman is planned to receive a first printing of two million copies and is already Amazon’s biggest seller. Mockingbird won the Pulitzer Prize and has sold over 40 million copies in many languages.
Like millions of other people, To Kill a Mockingbird has had a big impact on my thinking. I have read the book several times and have seen the film adaptation probably 20 times—at least a dozen of these as a 14-year-old in the first-run theatre.
It will be interesting to see if Watchman can live up to the hype and anticipation. A lot has changed since the early ’60s when the book and movie came out. People have aged and have died. We are living in a racially-transformed society. Plus, there are reports that Lee suffered a stroke which has impaired her thinking, and that she has been manipulated into releasing Watchman. Other reports say she is sharp as a tack.
I thought you would be fascinated to see some of the changes in the lives of people who played key roles in the book and film.
author – age 89
“Atticus Finch” – deceased 2003
“Scout Finch” – age 62
“Jem Finch” – age 66
“Calpurnia” – deceased 1985
“Dill Harris” – deceased 1995
“Boo Radley” – age 84
“Tom Robinson” – deceased 2005
Unlike real life, novels and films freeze things in time. People never age or die. For better or worse, childhood can last forever—the characters’ and ours.
Groove of the Day
46° and Partly Cloudy
PS: Harper Lee died Friday, February 19, 2016 at age 89 in her hometown of Monroeville, AL.