To Kill a Mockingbird is one of America’s best-loved novels. A Pulitzer prize winner with themes of racism, innocence lost, and class system, it was frequently challenged and banned from school curriculums and libraries as it touched on the subjects of rape and racism. As often as it was challenged, it was beloved. It is one of my favorite novels; the voice of Scout as she learns about the adult world teaches us how to see through others’ eyes. It is no wonder that Harper Lee once said she would never write another novel because she considered this one her best writing. And she never did. Or so we thought.
Lee wrote articles for magazines like Vanity Fair, but never ventured into writing novels again. But apparently, she recently came upon a manuscript that she had written around the same time as To Kill a Mockingbird. The only details so far are that it features Scout as an adult and is called Go Set a Watchman. In the 1950s, Lee’s editor told her to set the novel aside. Which she did—for 50 years. Now 88 years old, Lee says that she thought the manuscript was “a pretty decent effort” and that she is “humbled and amazed” that Go Set a Watchman is being published by Harper Collins.
The manuscript was found last fall, attached to an original typed copy of To Kill a Mockingbird. Apparently written first, with Scout returning to Alabama to see her father, the flashbacks were amazing and Lee’s editor convinced her to make them a standalone novel. That novel was To Kill a Mockingbird. The original book has now been readied for publication, with Lee’s obvious hesitation. Harper Collins plans a two million copy first edition run.
Harper Lee has rarely spoken to the press since 1960. It is doubtful that she will do any press tours or publicity for this new release. As frustrating as that may be for curious reporters and adoring fans, we will all have to read Go Set a Watchman and be happy for the unexpected gift.
Personally, I look forward to a new view of Scout and Atticus from the one knows them best, their creator. I have read To Kill a Mockingbird at least 6 times and have loaned my personal copy out so many times that I no longer bother asking for it back. I have probably bought at least 6 copies for myself.
Harper Lee’s voice as Scout, allowing me to only know and understand what is going on as she learns it, was my introduction to real, fantastic writing. Writing that truly transports a reader to another place and time. A writer who can convincingly allow you to see through a child’s eyes, complete with their innocence and color blindness intact. Writing that makes you see how startled a child can be to find that her father isn’t boring, but a very brave and honorable man.
If you haven’t read To Kill a Mockingbird, do it while you wait for the new book. Let Harper Lee introduce you to Scout Finch herself.