Accessibility links

Breaking News

After 55 Years, a New Novel From 'To Kill a Mockingbird' Author

FILE - Author Harper Lee smiles during a ceremony in Montgomery, Alabama, Aug. 20, 2007.

Pulitzer Prize-winning author Harper Lee will publish her second novel more than 50 years after the release of her classic “To Kill a Mockingbird,” her publisher said on Tuesday.

“Go Set a Watchman,” which is set in the 1950s and features lead characters from “To Kill a Mockingbird” some 20 years older, is scheduled to be published on July 14 by publisher Harper. The book was actually written in the 1950s, before “To Kill a Mockingbird,” and Lee, 88, thought it had been lost.

“It features the character known as Scout as an adult woman and I thought it a pretty decent effort,” Lee said in a statement issued by Harper. “My editor, who was taken by the flashbacks to Scout's childhood, persuaded me to write a novel from the point of view of the young Scout. I was a first-time writer so I did as I was told.”

In “Go Set a Watchman,” Scout returns from New York to visit her father, Atticus, in the fictional town of Maycomb, where she struggles with personal and political issues and tries to understand her father's view toward society as well as her own conflicted feelings about her hometown.

Lee thought the text of the book had been lost and was surprised when her attorney, Tonja Carter, unearthed it.

“To Kill a Mockingbird,” the story of race and growing up in Alabama in the 1930s, was based loosely on Lee's own experiences. It was published in 1960 just as the U.S. civil rights movement was gaining momentum and became required reading in many American schools.

The book, which has sold an estimated 30 million copies, has resonated with readers across cultural lines.

“It's important for the issues that it raised about gender and race differences,” said Thadious Davis, a University of Pennsylvania professor of English who specializes in African-American and Southern literature.

American novelist biographer Charles Shields said that “To Kill a Mockingbird” found success in part because “it poses the fundamental question of how do I get along with people who are different from me?”

Shields said he first came across references to “Go Set a Watchman” while reading early correspondence between Lee and her literary agent while researching his acclaimed biography about Lee.

Shields said the recent death of sister Alice Lee, a lawyer who was seen as the manager of Harper Lee's career, may have eased the way for the second novel to be published.