5 Things To Know Before Reading Harper Lee's "Go Set A Watchman"


Today, Harper Lee's much-anticipated Go Set A Watchman, a "parent" book to her famous 1960 novel To Kill A Mockingbird, was released. Though it may be tempting to dive right into what's sure to be a popular summer read, here's what you should probably know before you do just that (Warning: minor spoilers):

1. It was written before To Kill A Mockingbird.

In fact, Go Set A Watchman was a discarded draft. Lee submitted it in the mid-50s to her editor, Tay Hohoff, who enjoyed Scout's flashbacks to her childhood so much she told Lee to write a novel from young Scout's perspective.

2. The manuscript was discovered after Lee's sister's death.

Hohoff may have tossed it, but Lee's sister and lawyer, Alice, stored it in a deposit box for safekeeping. After Alice's death, it was discovered by her colleague, Tonja Carter, who took Alice's place as Lee's lawyer.

3. The book is set 20 years after the events that occurred in TKAM.

We encounter Scout as an adult who now lives in New York and reflects longingly on her childhood in the small town of Maycomb, Alabama. Don't fret, though: she's just as feisty and rebellious as we remember her.

4. Atticus isn't the same person he is in TKAM.

We know him as a warmhearted, progressive lawyer and father who fought tooth and nail to defend Tom Robinson, a black man accused of raping a white woman. He was an anomaly. In Go Set A Watchman, he's a much more realistic (but also much more disappointing) character: a bigot who opposes desegregation. Sigh.

5. There is controversy surrounding the book's release.

Some people believe the 89-year-old Lee's mental health has declined so much she isn't capable of consenting to its publication. In other words: her lawyer is taking advantage of her to cash in on a gold mine.

However, investigators for the state of Alabama interviewed Lee and concluded that the claims were unfounded. In a statement that she is said to have given to her lawyer, Lee said, “I'm alive and kicking and happy as hell with the reactions to ‘Watchman.'"

What do you think? Will you be reading the book?

Photo Credit: HarperCollins


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