If you are at all a fan of To Kill a Mockingbird, you will no doubt have heard the news that there is to be a sequel. Fifty-five years after the first novel, Harper Lee is publishing her second novel, Go Set a Watchman, from the point of view of an adult Scout.
I was overjoyed. I LOVE To Kill a Mockingbird. ADORE To Kill a Mockingbird.
And then I started reading a bit more about it, mainly thanks to my brother flagging some news articles for me. Nothing is definitive, but there is a whole lot of suspicion around the timing of the manuscript being “found”. Only a few months after the death of Harper Lee’s sister, the inspiration for Atticus Finch and Lee’s longtime lawyer and media shield, her current lawyer, Tanya Carver, “found” the manuscript in some boxes. Supposedly Lee thought that the manuscript had been lost long ago.
When I’d first heard about a second novel, I assumed it had been recently written, and not that it was a long lost manuscript. Lee’s statements surrounding the news of publishing talk about being glad it was found as it was a good piece of work. Call me a cynic, but if you wrote another novel, and lost it, chances are you could rewrite it. Not exactly, not in precisely the same details, but you could definitely take a shot at it and the similarities would be strong. Heck, it might even be a better piece. I myself threw out half of my second novel as the character motivation was wrong, but in rewriting it much of the structure remains pretty similar. Not that I’m Harper Lee quality -not by a long shot.
So, if this is ultimately a case of an elderly woman being taken advantage of (there are reports suggesting she is no longer capable of understanding agreements or making decisions), then what happens to the book? Do you read it? Is it real? Did she even write it?
Here’s the kicker. I know that I’ll read it. Whether it has been published with intentions to profit off of a vulnerable person, curiosity will get the better of me. If it wasn’t really written by Lee, readers will know immediately. After all, To Kill a Mockingbird is written from adult Scout’s point of view, recounting her summers in Maycomb, Alabama. If it really is written by Lee, this is a huge gift to readers who have loved her work for years. The uncomfortable question is what happens to the money? Will Lee really receive the funds, or is she being taken advantage of?
And is that something that concerns readers? I know that sounds like an awful question, but maybe we’re all jumping to conclusions and not giving Lee the respect or consideration that she deserves. Perhaps she is making this choice in sound mind and the circumstances are just awkwardly suspicious.
I don’t know. I can’t answer these questions. What I do know is that I will need to read the book to find out.
What about you? Will you consider reading Go Set a Watchman? Why or why not? Should we as readers consider what goes on behind the scenes in an author’s personal life?