If you happened to be on the internet a few days ago, you may have been able to witness a seismic eruptions of joy from all four corners of the earth when it was announced that fifty-five years after her only novel, To Kill a Mockingbird, was released, Harper Lee would be releasing a new novel – a sequel to one of the most immensely popular and important novels of all time.
The news was met by an incredible amount of excitement, from hastily written news articles, to races to see who could come up with the wittiest tweets (a personal favourite of mine is the suggestion that this To Kill a Mockingbird sequel should be titled To Kill Two Mockingbirds). All in all, the internet seemed to be in general agreement about the news.
The new novel will be titled Go Set a Watchman, and was written before Lee wrote To Kill a Mockingbird, centring around Scout’s life 20-years after Mockingbird when she returns to Maycomb, Alabama, to visit her father Atticus. It comes out on July 14th this year.
However, rumour and speculation began to circulate that Lee was being ‘pressured into’ releasing the novel, as the 88 year old is currently living in an assisted-living facility, hard of hearing, and almost completely blind.* The manuscript for Watchman, believed by Lee to have been lost many years ago, was found by Tonja Carter—Lee’s current lawyer—affixed to an original typescript of To Kill a Mockingbird. It is said that the novel will be published in its original form with little-to-no editing or revising. Piecing together the factors allows us to see that there may in fact be something suspicious about the release of Go Set a Watchman, however upsetting that may be. In fact, Harper Lee’s sister who passed away last year admitted in 2011 that in her frail state, Harper would sign anything put down in front of her by someone she trusted.
So, while we can continue to speculate about the publication of the To Kill a Mockingbird sequel, we may never know the exact true circumstances surroundings its publication.
In the end, Harper Lee has insisted that she is ‘happy as hell’ to release the new novel and that it is, in her own words, a ‘pretty decent effort.’