After 55 years, Harper Lee has done it. The author of the classic To Kill a Mockingbird bestseller is publishing a sequel, set to be released on July 14.
Go Set a Watchman was completed in the 1950s but was set aside and just “rediscovered” last year.
Todd Leopold of CNN reports Lee’s explanation:
“In the mid-1950s, I completed a novel called Go Set a Watchman,” [Lee] said. “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 (what became To Kill a Mockingbird) from the point of view of the young Scout.”
Go Set a Watchman is a big deal for To Kill a Mockingbird enthusiasts, of which I am chief. As an English Language Arts teacher, I taught the novel for many years, and to this day, former students I run into speak glowingly of the experience of reading it in my classroom, the lessons they learned, and how it remains “the greatest book I’ve ever read.” I share their perspective.
My love for the novel earned me a First Edition copy, a gift from my friend Kristi for my birthday last September—one that is, without a doubt, among the greatest I have ever received. News, therefore, of another Lee release is good news indeed.
Many will recall that To Kill a Mockingbird won the Pulitzer Prize and was made into a movie, in which Gregory Peck played lawyer Atticus Finch, the father of the main character, Scout. Peck won an Oscar for the 1962 film.
Watchman will center around Scout “returning to her hometown of Maycomb, Alabama … to see her father, the upright lawyer Atticus Finch.”
According to the press release, “[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.”
Perhaps even more remarkable than the news of the new book, which will be only the second Lee has ever published, is that Harper Lee is speaking at all. After To Kill a Mockingbird became an instant bestseller, the author developed a reputation as a recluse—remaining in silence and away from the spotlight all these years. She did make an appearance, of course, in 2007, when President Bush awarded her the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
At 88-years-of-age, Lee has reemerged—and with news that already has people buzzing. Jonathan Burnham, Lee’s publisher and senior vice president, has called the To Kill a Mockingbird sequel “a remarkable literary event.”
As for me, I look forward to another great read and for rejoining Scout, Jem, and Atticus Finch in Maycomb, Alabama. But there’s more: the announcement of another novel centered around the iconic Finch family has the educator in me anticipating the many classrooms that will be set afire with another Harper Lee masterpiece. If her first work is any indication, Go Set a Watchman is sure to engage not only the mind, but the consciences of its readers–and perhaps no group needs that awakening more than today’s youth as they search to find their place in this world.