Author Harper Lee, best known for her classic Southern gothic coming-of-age novel To Kill a Mockingbird, has announced that her second novel—Go Set a Watchman—will be published on July 14, 2015, almost six decades after it was written. While the manuscript for Go Set a Watchman was written before Lee wrote To Kill a Mockingbird in 1960, the novel had been set aside unpublished since the mid-1950s. In a statement released by HarperCollins, Lee spoke about why the manuscript was shelved for so long.
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 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 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.
The announcement of her second novel comes as a surprise to bibliophiles the world over, as Lee hadn’t published anything after the success of To Kill a Mockingbird and has often avoided public appearances. Lee’s close friend Rev. Dr. Thomas Lane Butts of the Monroeville Methodist Church in Alabama told The Daily Telegraph the reasons Lee gave him for not publishing another novel in the past. “She said, ‘Two reasons: one, I wouldn’t go through the pressure and publicity I went through with To Kill A Mockingbird for any amount of money. Second, I have said what I wanted to say and I will not say it again’.”
The story features themes of racial issues and family life—similar to themes in To Kill a Mockingbird—and centers on Scout as an adult as she returns to the fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama, to visit her father. There 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.”
The novel will be published by Harper, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. John Burnham, the Senior Vice President and publisher at Harper, said, “Reading in many ways like a sequel to Harper Lee’s classic novel, it is a compelling and ultimately moving narrative about a father and a daughter’s relationship, and the life of a small Alabama town living through the racial tensions of the 1950s.”