My immediate reaction to reading that Harper Lee is publishing a follow up to her Pulitzer Prize-winning (1961) novel, To Kill a Mocking Bird, was to attempt to purchase and read it today. According to NPR’s All Things Considered, Go Set a Watchman was written before To Kill a Mockingbird, but takes place 20 years later and tells the story of Scout’s trip home to visit her father, Atticus, in Maycomb, AL. The book will not be out until the summer, however, which gives us several months to debate The Atlantic’s skepticism about Lee’s decision to publish this novel now, at age 88. The magazine references a 2007 stroke that limited her capacities and her historical reasons for and comments about not publishing a second novel. If Lee truly never intended us to read Go Set a Watchman, is it better to rebuff the novel (respecting her preference, but ignoring her work) or to read it, see the development of these characters we know and love, and permanently alter the way we read To Kill a Mockingbird?
Go Set a Watchman will be published on July 14 with a first printing of 2 million copies.