Fans who have been waiting 50 years for a follow-up to Harper Lee’s classic, To Kill a Mockingbird, finally got their wish when she announced yesterday that her novel Go Set a Watchman – actually written before Mockingbird – will be released this summer.
According to the press release from HarperCollins, Lee states, “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 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 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.”
I’ve been wanting to reread To Kill a Mockingbird for a while. The last time I read it I was in school (I can’t even remember what year) and I know I didn’t appreciate the novel at the time. I’ve been looking forward to going back and rereading it now, with a whole new perspective. This news has given me added incentive to make sure I get that done.
However, there’s also another side to this coin. There are several drawbacks to this news about the new publication. The first being how much control Lee has actually had in the decision to publish this first novel. Back in the summer Gawker published this article after the publication of a biography titled The Mockingbird Next Door raised controversy. Author Marja Mills claims she had Lee’s permission, as well as written consent from Lee’s sister and lawyer, Alice. Questions have since emerged as to whether Lee herself actually had any issue with the biography, or whether it was her current law firm (the firm from which Alice had retired) that was creating the problem.
This information makes one curious as to whether Lee has truly chosen to publish this novel now, or whether her lawyers have decided it’s a good way to make money, so they convinced her to go through with it.
The other concern is a more practical one – this novel was written first, and according to what I’ve read, it will be published with little revision. Therefore, we have to remember not to keep our expectations too high. It’ll be easy to expect a lot from this novel, given the popularity and timelessness of To Kill a Mockingbird, but the truth is, it just might not live up to that hype.
However, whether this book is just as good, better, or worse, than To Kill a Mockingbird, it’s still exciting that we’ll finally get to see Scout the way Harper Lee originally envisioned her.