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Harper Lee to Publish New Novel, “Go Set a Watchman”

February 4, 2015 by Brett Wilkins in Arts & Entertainment with 0 Comments
Harper Lee in 2007. (ABC News screen grab)

Harper Lee in 2007. (ABC News screen grab)

More than half a century after publishing her first and only novel, the Pulitzer Prize-winning “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Harper Lee’s publisher has announced plans to release a long-lost sequel, which was actually written first.

“Go Set a Watchman,” which won’t be available until July 14, has already hit number one on Amazon.com’s bestseller list, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The new novel was written years before “To Kill a Mockingbird” but is set 20 years later, when the famous book’s heroine, Scout, is an adult living in New York City who returns to her fictional home town of Maycomb, Alabama to visit her aging father, attorney Atticus Finch, who in the debut novel represented Tom Robinson, a black man falsely accused of raping a white woman during the racist Jim Crow era.

Back in Maycomb, Scout “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,” explains an announcement from publisher HarperCollins.

In a statement, Lee said “Go Set a Watchman” was completed in the mid-1950s, but she believed the original manuscript had been lost.

“It features the character known as Scout as an adult woman and I thought it a pretty decent effort,” Lee said in the statement. “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.”

HarperCollins added: “The original manuscript of the novel was considered to have been lost until fall 2014, when Tonja Carter discovered it in a secure location where it had been affixed to an original typescript of To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Lee, now 88, lives in an assisted living home in Monroeville, Alabama, after which Maycomb was modeled. According to the Associated Press, she is deaf, blind and in poor health, spending much of her time in a wheelchair. She was last seen in public last November at her sister Alice Lee’s funeral, keeping with a life spent mostly out of the public eye ever since her famous novel was published in 1960.

“To Kill a Mockingbird,” which has sold more than 40 million copies, has long been a staple of American junior high and high school English classes. A film adaptation of the novel won three 1963 Academy Awards, including Best Actor for Gregory Peck, who played Finch. The American Film Institute named Finch the greatest movie hero of the 20th century.

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