55 years after one of the greatest American literary works, To Kill A Mockingbird, was published. In those 55 years, Mockingbird has become one of the most beloved books ever, and one of the most read. It is one of those amazing works, where it transcends generations, and becomes a novel that people will go back to time and again, to relive the adventures of Scout Finch, as she makes her way through the confusing world created for her in Maycomb.
For many people, their exposure to Mockingbird came to them in junior high or high school English class, where they were required to read the book for the first time. And maybe they liked it right off the bat. Maybe they didn’t. Part of the magic of the novel is that it is one that is forever in the back of our minds.
We know Scout, and we watched her grow up during the Tom Robinson trial. We know Boo Radley, the mysterious neighbor who taught us more about understanding and judgement than we may even choose to acknowledge. And we know and love Atticus Finch, the ultimate literary father figure, to the point where his film character is considered to be one of the great film heroes of all time. We read the book, and re-read it, and wanted Atticus to be a part of our lives somehow, to have a man of that kind of honour to be our guides in the world.
To Kill A Mockingbird is special, without any doubt.
It is perfect, and untouched, in a way. The author, Harper Lee, never published another novel in her life. Mockingbird was the height of her career, and she has had a good life because of it. The characters of Maycomb are always there for us, on our book shelves, where our tattered copy of the novel sits, always ready for another adventure, each time we decide to pick it up.
This past week, it was announced that Harper Lee would be publishing a new book.
To one of the greatest novels of all time.
This is massive news.
And it is scary news.
It was announced that the manuscript for Lee’s first novel (which she actually wrote before Mockingbird) has been rediscovered, and will be published in July of 2015. The title of the book is Go Set A Watchman, and it takes place 20 years after the events of Mockingbird. Scout, now an adult, returns to Maycomb to reunite with her father, and deal with her childhood in the small southern town, and the events that were so paramount to her development as a person.
It is interesting that Watchman was written before Mockingbird. The publisher at the time was taken with the flashbacks to Scout’s youth, and encouraged the young author Lee to write an entire novel on Scout’s time as a child. This, of course, became To Kill A Mockingbird. Harper Lee herself has noted that she was a young writer at the time, but that Watchman is a “pretty decent effort.” We can only hope.
There are reasons to be scared of this novel coming out. It is taking us back to characters that we love so much, and we will crack the pages of the new novel hoping that everything is going to work out alright for them, and that the original book will not be ruined by the new one. At the same time, knowing that it was written prior to the original book, we can take solace in the fact that Lee has not been trying, and failing, at writing a sequel for all of these years, decades, and finally has come up with something that she feels satisfied with. Knowing that she had already created an adult version of Scout gives me relief, because then the events of Mockingbird will serve to develop that character that was already written.
There is the potential for magic with Go Set A Watchman. We will get to see the character that we loved all grown up, as she was originally meant to be seen.
So what will have become of Scout? Will she have followed in her father’s footsteps and taken to law in order to make the world a better place? Will she have taken the lessons taught to her by Atticus and become a truly great person? What is her relationship with Atticus like, now that she is an adult?
There are a ton of questions, and in a few short months, there will be answers.
One thing that I have considered, with a bit of horror, is what is going to happen with Atticus? He was a bit older for a father of a young girl. Is he going to die in this novel? Even thinking about that is scary. I guess we will have to wait and see.
There is no question that we can already pencil in Go Set A Watchman as the year’s best selling book, and rightfully so. Almost immediately after the announcement of the publication, it was launched into a Top 10 selling book, based on pre-orders alone.
The release of this book is more than a long-awaited sequel, or even a long-awaited book from a beloved writer. It is an event of great cultural significance.
Naturally, there is division in readers on what to expect for the book. It can be something great. Or it is something average. It was, after all, never published in the first place. Or it could be something that we read, just because of Mockingbird, but it will be nothing special in itself.
All I have to say is…who cares?
Harper Lee is publishing a new book, and while it will probably never live up to the astronomical success of her first novel, it will be something that we will be able to cherish (hopefully) for as long as we have loved Mockingbird.
My pre-order has been in since the moment I heard the news.
I can’t wait to read it.