By Sarah Rovinsky
Harper Lee is a widely known legend for her classic novel, To Kill a Mockingbird. Lee has granted almost no requests for interviews or public appearances since its publication. With the exception of a few minor essays, she hasn’t published anything further. In February, Harper Lee announced Go Set a Watchman will be released on July 14. Carter, laywer and friend of Nelle Harper Lee, was the first to mysteriously stumble upon the manuscript of the companion novel. As said in the New York Times, “I was so stunned. At the time, I didn’t know if it was finished.” She went to see Lee and asked her if the novel was complete. “She said: ‘Complete? I guess so. It was the parent of Mockingbird,'” meaning this book was written first.
Unfortunately, controversy surrounding the new novel has shrouded most of the celebration.
Many were caught off guard with the upcoming publication of her long-lost work. Lee’s close friend, Rev. Thomas Butts, mentioned in a 2011 interview with an Australian newspaper that Lee told him why she never wrote again, “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.” Rumors have spread that Lee couldn’t have possibly signed off on the publication. To this, Carter told New York Times, “She is a very strong, independent and wise woman who should be enjoying the discovery of her long lost novel. Instead, she is having to defend her own credibility and decision making.” But the scrutiny did not leave Carter unscathed. Some have suggested that she’s exploiting Harper Lee. “Nothing can describe how I feel about that. I am a lawyer not a celebrity. The focus should be on the gift Harper Lee is giving the world.”
It remains unclear how the manuscript was initially found. Yet, others wonder why it hasn’t been detected sooner. Fifty five years separate its creation and discovery. Go Set a Watchman takes place 20 years after To Kill a Mockingbird in the mid 1950’s. Had it not been rejected by her editor, Tay Hohoff, it would have been her first novel. Instead, Hohoff told her to rewrite it from the main character–Scout’s–perspective as a young girl. Only time will tell whether this new publication can stand up to her beloved first novel or if Harper Lee is a one hit wonder.