Last Spring, the Department of Special Collections and University Archives was glad to find out that Harper Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel and classic of Modern American literature To Kill a Mockingbird was to be re-released in digital and audiobook formats. In related news, the Associated Press announced yesterday that Lee’s unpublished novel, Go Set a Watchman, is scheduled to be released on July 14.
In a statement released by the writer herself, she 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 (what became To Kill a Mockingbird) 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 (the original book) 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.”
Although written before To Kill a Mockingbird, Go Set a Watchman appears to be a de facto sequel to Harper’s masterpiece. According to the Associated Press, “the new book is set in Maycomb during the mid-1950s, 20 years after To Kill a Mockingbird and roughly contemporaneous with the time that Lee was writing the story. The civil rights movement was taking hold in her home state. The Supreme Court had ruled unanimously in 1954 that segregated schools were unconstitutional, and the arrest of Rosa Parks in 1955 led to the yearlong Montgomery bus boycott.”
“Scout (Jean Louise Finch) has returned to Maycomb from New York to visit her father, Atticus,” the publisher’s announcement reads. “She 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.”