This week you could almost hear a collective cheer echo around the world as millions of book lovers greeted the news that Harper Lee is to publish a sequel to her 1960 novel To Kill a Mockingbird.
And, yes, this will be a real sequel, penned by the same author; not like Mrs de Winter, which imagines what might happen after Rebecca, or Scarlett, which supposedly follows on from Gone with the Wind; neither of which manage to capture the genius of the original, however enjoyable they may be.
Harper Lee is now 88. She told us amid a swarm of publicity this week that she wrote Go Set a Watchman sixty years ago but thought that the manuscript had been lost. She also says that it is ‘a pretty decent effort’.
Then, within hours of the announcement, events took a more sinister turn. Mysterious ‘sources’ claimed that Lee was being coerced into allowing the publication, and we were told that after suffering a stroke a few years ago, Lee has been manipulated by her lawyer, Tonja Carter. Yet, Lee herself has dismissed these concerns and issued a statement claiming, “I’m alive and kicking and happy as hell with the reactions to Watchman.”
Go Set a Watchman will pick up the story of Atticus and Scout Finch in the 1950s but was actually written before the author’s most famous work. So what made Lee change her mind and begin the tale with Scout as a child? Whatever the reason, telling the story through the eyes of a young girl is the touch of genius that makes To Kill a Mockingbird one of the best loved novels of the twentieth century. Scout, as narrator, is a blank canvas, an innocent mind, and as such can allow the reader to encounter each event without preconceptions.
If I am honest, when I have purchased my copy, I will open the cover of Go Set a Watchman with trepidation. I will wonder whether it could possibly live up to my expectations. But I can’t wait to find out.
I have been working for Oxford Open Learning since 2010 and love helping my students with their English and History courses. As a teacher and personal tutor, I have taught pupils from all around the world, aged from three to adult. I am often to be found with my head in a book and sometimes I have four or five on the go at the same time. I love learning about History and Art and am passionate about literature.