55 years after her debut, Harper Lee, sent the literary universe into a spin after she announced she would be releasing a sequel to, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ this summer named, ‘Go Set a Watchman’.
Although she has written the only novel, her debut novel wins the Pulitzer Prize and goes on to sell 40 million copies, perennially topping lists of the world’s best-loved books. The novel was written by Lee before To Kill a Mockingbird, but is set some 20 years later. It features Lee’s beloved character Scout as an adult, returning to her home town of Maycomb from New York to visit Atticus, her lawyer father, along with many of the characters from Lee’s debut. The deal to publish Go Set a Watchman was negotiated between the US publisher HarperCollins and Harper Lee’s local attorney, Tonja Carter.
Lee said in a statement attributed to her by her publisher that Go Set a Watchman was completed in the mid-1950s, but she believed the original manuscript had been lost. “I hadn’t realised 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.”
After publication of her debut novel, Lee largely retired from public life and did not release another work of fiction despite overwhelming demand, telling an interviewer in 1964 – her last major piece of publicity – that “I didn’t expect the book to sell in the first place”, and that the reaction was “just about as frightening as the quick, merciful death I’d expected like being hit over the head and knocked cold”.