‘Go Set a Watchman,’ New Harper Lee Book: 5 Fast Facts You Need to Know

Pulitzer Prize winner and To Kill A Mockingbird author Harper Lee smiles before receiving the 2007 Presidential Medal of Freedom in the East Room of the White House November 5, 2007, in Washington, D.C. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Harper Lee, famed writer of the literary classic To Kill a Mockingbird, published in 1960 and never out of print since, has announced that she will publish her second novel. Titled Go Set a Watchman, it has been revealed to be a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird and will follow protagonist Scout Finch in adulthood.

The announcement was made by her publisher, Penguin Random House, during Black History Month 2015.

Read on for more information about this literary revelation that has taken the media by storm.


1. It’s a Sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird

(Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

As stated above, Go Set a Watchman will be a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird.

Scout has been living in New York and is returning to Alabama to visit her father, Atticus Finch.

In the publisher’s statement, Penguin Random House Divisional Managing Director Susan Sandon says:

I know that, like To Kill a Mockingbird, it’s destined to speak to generations of readers. Immersing oneself anew in the rhythms and cadences of Harper Lee’s rich prose and meeting Scout fully grown makes for an irresistible read which also casts new light on one of the most popular classics of modern literature.


2. She Wrote It Before ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’

Lee had written Go Set a Watchman before To Kill a Mockingbird but set it aside to work on the latter. She then thought it had been lost in its entirety.

In the publisher’s statement, Lee says:

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.

Penguin Random House CEO Tom Weldon says:

The story of this first book – both parent to To Kill a Mockingbird and rather wonderfully acting as its sequel – is fascinating. The publication of Go Set a Watchman will be a major event and millions of fans around the world will have the chance to reacquaint themselves with Scout, her father Atticus and the prejudices and claustrophobia of that small town in Alabama Harper Lee conjures so brilliantly.

It will come out 55 years after To Kill a Mockingbird debuted.



3. She Is Reclusive

Lee is notoriously reclusive. After publishing To Kill a Mockingbird in 1960, she settled into her life in Monroeville, Alabama, and hasn’t made any media appearances since.

The Guardian reports:

Whether or not the release of Go Set a Watchman will tempt Lee out of the quiet life she has enjoyed in Monroeville, Alabama, for decades remains to be seen. “It’s too early to say,” said Bush. “She’s not given any interviews since the sixties, though, and she’s deeply private, so you can probably imagine that that will continue to be the case.”

Lee, now 88, is deaf and nearly blind. She filed two lawsuits in 2013, one alleging that her former agent’s son-in-law tricked her into signing over the rights to To Kill a Mockingbird, and another against a local museum, claiming it capitalized on her fame but failed to pay her accordingly.

She reached settlements in both the first and second suits. You can read the complaint from the first lawsuit above.


4. People Are Celebrating on Social Media

The news took social media platforms like Twitter by storm.

In an age of Kardashians and Real Housewives, people were happy to celebrate real American culture.


5. Not Everyone Is Happy

Despite the jubilant reception to the sequel news, Lee has her critics.

The Guardian reports:

However, Dr Ian Patterson from Cambridge University was underwhelmed by the news. “I can’t but imagine it must be of historical interest rather than anything else, at this point,” he said. “It will doubtless be eagerly read by fans of To Kill a Mockingbird, but that’s a soggy sentimental liberal novel if ever there was one. I’m always dubious of attempts to close the gap between fiction and reality, as in wanting to know what happens to characters outside a novel’s confines — Tom Jones with Alzheimers, Mr Darcy’s daughters or, as here, Scout grown up. I expect it will garner lots of short-term interest on those grounds, and on the grounds of being another novel by a one-novel writer.”

To pre-order Go Set a Watchman, click here.

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