The announcement of the upcoming publication of Go Set a Watchman — a sequel to Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird, and actually written before it — has, not surprisingly, set off a flurry of excitement and speculation. Pre-orders of the book, to be released July 14, have already made it an Amazon bestseller.
Questioning whether the new novel is a mistake, Huffington Post’s Maddie Crum writes, “While posthumously published novels are granted room for error, Lee’s work has ostensibly been given her seal of approval, bringing her ability to judge literary merit into question if the book isn’t up to snuff.”
Madeleine Davies of Jezebel reminds us all why we need to be suspicious. Lee’s sister Alice, who managed and protected Lee’s estate for decades as her lawyer and advocate, died last November. This left the author, reportedly in poor health after a stroke in 2007, to essentially fend for herself.
The situation does seem sketchy, says Lincoln Michel for BuzzFeed. “The timing, so soon after her sister’s death, is suspicious. That the editor has not talked to Lee at all is suspicious. The fact that we’ve never even heard about this book before is suspicious. Lee has also clearly been exploited before. In 2007, agent Samuel Pinkus got Lee to sign over the rights to Mockingbird to him — allegedly because she was too blind to read the contract — and Lee had to sue to recover them,” he writes. Michel also explains how there’s definitely an argument for it being published: It’s a completed work, Lee did once submit it for publication and, if we believe her press release quotes, she currently wants it to be published.
Hadley Freeman for The Guardian believes that until there is proof that “Lee is being exploited, and not mere assumption stained with well-meaning condescension for an elderly woman, we should make like Atticus Finch, see the best in people, and treat the new book as a cause for celebration.”
So “how should devoted fans of Lee’s first novel — originally published in 1960 — respond to a second novel published 55 years later?”, questions Lauran Fine for The Conversation. “One possible reaction is trepidation. Will To Kill a Mockingbird be tarnished through an inferior portrayal of an adult Scout? Will we recognise the charming voice of the earlier novel?”