After more than 50 years, author Harper Lee will follow up her beloved, and only, book To Kill a Mockingbird with her second novel, Go Set a Watchman, set for release on July 14th, publisher HarperCollins announced today.
The recently unearthed book is a quasi-sequel to Lee’s 1960 classic, but as the author explained in a statement, Go Set a Watchman was actually written first and would eventually inspire Mockingbird. “It features the character known as Scout as an adult woman and I thought it a pretty decent effort,” Lee said. “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.”
Set in the mid-Fifties, Go Set a Watchman finds a grown-up Scout, a.k.a. Jean Louise Finch, traveling from New York back to her home of Maycomb, Alabama to visit her father, Atticus. The book centers around Scout’s relationship with her father and his worldview, as well as her attitude towards her hometown in a new era of continued, if not heightened, racial tension. Go Set a Watchman will feature a number of other Mockingbird characters.
While Lee said she’d lost track of Watchman, her friend and lawyer Tonja Carter discovered the original manuscript attached to a typescript of To Kill a Mockingbird last fall. “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,” Lee said. “I am humbled and amazed that this will now be published after all these years.”
Published by J.B. Lippincott in 1960, To Kill a Mockingbird is Scout’s coming-of-age story set against the backdrop of a racially charged trial, in which Atticus defends Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a white woman, Mayella Ewell. Widely considered an American classic, the book won the Pulitzer Prize upon its initial publication and was turned into an equally beloved film in 1962 featuring Gregory Peck’s iconic performance as Atticus Finch.