To Kill a Mockingbird – Do you want to read the sequel?

Harper Lee,A.K Andrew,

Harper Lee circa 1962

Have you ever finished a novel and wished you knew what happened to the characters after the final page has been turned? It looks as if you may be able to have that experience with one of America’s greatest classics. Last week it was announced that Harper Lee is going to release another novel after 55 yrs, somewhat of a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird. The new novel, Go Set A Watchman, is set to be released by HarperCollins on July 14th, 2015, with an initial print run of two million copies. It’s set twenty years after To Kill a Mockingbird, in the fictional town of Macomb, Alabama when Jean Louise Finch , or “Scout” goes back to visit her father. The novel, with similarities To Kill a Mockingbird, deals with the racial tensions of the 1950s, as well as the complex relationship between father and daughter.

It seems that the manuscript, which was recently found in Ms. Harper’s boxes in storage, was written before To Kill a Mockingbird, and was the first manuscript she tried to get published. Ms Lee was a young writer – as yet unpublished- and took the advice given by her editor who liked Scout’s flashbacks and thought the real story should be about Scout as a young girl. And so Harper Lee went back and revised her manuscript and To Kill a Mockingbird became her first novel, and the classic that has been translated into more than 40 languages and has sold over 30 million copies.

“I was a first-time writer, so I did as I was told,” Ms. Lee said in a statement released by her publisher.

 My initial excitement of a new novel by Harper Lee was at first tempered by the thought that perhaps the manuscript would not be as good as the classic. But then I thought even if it wouldn’t be, why should it matter? In fact as a writer, I was interested in reading the story that was the genesis for the final novel published back in 1960. Often the story a novelist starts out to write turns out to be something completely different, and the one that was meant to be told comes out. I had this experience myself with my first novel. It was initially set in Berkeley, CA in 1969, but ended up being set in Italy in the 1940s.

Harper Lee, A.K. Andrew,

Harper Lee, 2007

I read a couple more articles about the upcoming publication of Go Set A Watchman, and the questions that were raised surrounded the issue of whether Ms. Lee is actually involved in the process. Harper Lee is now 88 and lives in an Assisted Living facility in Monroeville, Alabama. She is both deaf and blind, and until recently her affairs had been largely looked after by her sister Alice who died last year at 104. Obviously the family must have used a lawyer too. But now that Alice is no longer there to monitor Harper Lee’s affairs, the question has been asked as to who exactly has control over the situation, or been negotiating the deal with HarperCollins, and ultimately who will benefit from the publication of a book that is destined to be a big seller?

I suspect that we, as the general public will never know all the answers, and certainly not at the moment, and will have to be satisfied with speculation. So I am going to look at it from the perspective of both a reader and a writer, and hope that Ms. Lee herself will have at least some benefit from the publication, and that her fans are given an opportunity to see a little more of her journey of becoming the talented author that wrote To Kill a Mockingbird. I’m not expecting Go Set A Watchman to be as polished, as indeed it’s being published without the benefit of the level of editing usually given a published work, so that it is true to Harper Lee’s original manuscript.

This is probably a unique situation actually, as most ‘lost’ manuscripts tend to turn up after the writer has died. However convoluted the unanswered questions behind the scenes may be, I feel grateful that we are being treated to more of Harper Lee’s writing, and I hope she gets the accolades she will doubtless deserve once the book reaches publication.

Screenshot of To Kill a Mockingbird(an America...

Screenshot of To Kill a Mockingbird(an American movie issued in 1962) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


What’s your opinion of the upcoming sequel? Are you excited? Do you have concerns about it? Would you rather To Kill A Mockingbird remain Ms. Lee’s only novel?

Come join the discussion, and please share this post on your favorite social media. 

Many Thanks!

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  1. I am terribly excited about this newly discovered manuscript. To Kill A Mockingbird had a real effect on me…the genesis is appealing in that regard. The idea Go Set A Watchman is going to press unedited is a great curiosity too. Imagine if it’e even better? We all assume that editing improves a work…but we only ever see the finished product. I too hope that whoever benefits from this will be whoever Harper Lee chooses to. They’ll be muck about it…for sure:) That’s our world these days, right?
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  2. A.K. the best words to describe my feelings about the sequel are tempered excitement. Many of the questions you addressed are some of the same questions I had upon hearing about the second book. To Kill a Mockingbird is a masterpiece, and sequels rarely live up to the level of the initial offering. However, in spite of all the issues the book should definitely be published.
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  3. Have to admit I never read To Kill a Mockingbird. Or maybe I did read, at least part of, it when I studied American litterature at university but have forgotten. Am consequently not eager to read the sequel because I would have to start with the first book.

    Came across this news today on BBC when the name Lee attracted my attention because I, wrongly, believed it was about Lee Kuan Yew, the first prime minister of Singapore.:-) And here you are with a post about the sequel that has been discovered.
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    • Well it’s really been in the news a lot over the past week Catarina, so I’m not surprised you came across it. I would highly recommend reading To Kill a Mockingbird though. I was hesitant when I re-read it during my Certificate in Creative Writing Course, because I wasn’t sure how much I’d like a novel with a young girl as the central character. But it’s truly one of the best book I’ve ever read, and says so much about growing up, family relationships, being afraid of people we perceive as ‘other’ and of course all the racial injustices of the era. An excellent read.
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  4. I am, like many, am torn about the publishing of this novel. To Kill a MockingBird is such a classic; we do not want anything, even a sequel, to tarnish it. On the other hand, I would love to read something more from Harper Lee about the small town the novel is set in. I guess we will need to wait until it is released and find out which category it falls in, or maybe it ends up in both.

  5. I cannot WAIT until this is out AK! When I heard I went right over to Amazon to get on the Follow list so I know when it’s ready.

    I read and loved the book To Kill a Mockingbird, enjoyed the movie too. But this one, well, it has some real mystery to it doesn’t it?

    Wow. I didn’t know that Lee is in long term care. How sad. I pray she is taken care of with the release of this book.
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  6. Honestly, I didn’t read the novel but truly enjoyed the movie. You just gave me a good recommendation and share at Goodreads.

  7. A.K., I loved ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’, still have a copy as a matter of fact. The idea of reading the sequel – or is it prequel – is exciting. The writing may or may not be as smooth as the published novel but that doesn’t matter. Knowing what she was thinking when she wrote the novel through the new manuscript will add even more depth to the published novel – at least that my view on it. Thanks for letting us know. I’ll be sure to add it to Follow on Amazon.
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  8. Lenie — I honestly don’t remember if I read the book but I do remember the movie vividly. I say publish it and to heck with whether it’s another masterpiece. She deserves our respect for writing one of the great novels of all time and it will be fascinating to see how the characters she created evolved over time into the one and only book she ever published til now.
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  9. I’m not that excited for many of the reasons you cite. I’m sure I’ll read it and I’m sure they’ll make a movie out of it which I’m sure I’ll watch. I seem to remember that she used a lot of the slang of the time in Mockingbird so it will be interesting to see if that’s been changed or altered to suit modern tastes! We’ll see.
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  10. I find the whole story fascinating and look forward to reading the new novel, although I am hopeful that no one is getting exploited in this whole affair.
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  11. I read it a long time. I saw a lot of people excited about the announcement. Truth is, I’m more interesting in why it took so long and what is the connection to her sister. But if it gets good reviews, yes, I will be reading the book, too.
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  12. Most interesting that a sequel to “To Kill a Mockingbird” will be released this year. I read the book when I was 15 years old. To this day, and thanks in part to Gregory Peck ‘s dramatic portrayal, the character of Atticus Finch stands out prominently in all the many books I’ve read. Atticus represents the quintessence of what I regard as integrity. I feel curious and hesitant to see his portrayal in a story set 20 years post Mockingbird. Will he still shine in my eyes? I’ll likely not be too quick to read the “new” book. When I do, I hope I can judge it on its own merits, so to speak, but somehow I doubt I’ll be able to. Thanks for posing your questions.

    • Thanks so much for your insightful comment Ramona. Atticus is definitely a memorable character for me too, largely because Gregory Peck was so enigmatic I think. Now you have me wondering who is going to play the older Atticus in the inevitable movie that will come. It’s hard to revisit heroes from our formative years, but hopefully we’ll both find him still capable of garnering our respect.
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  13. Donna Janke says

    I definitely want to read the sequel, although I think I need to re-read To Kill a Mockingbird first to refresh my memory. It would be nice to have some of the questions you raised answered, but I’ll read the sequel either way.

  14. Hi AK, this is SO exciting. I loved To Kill a Mockingbird. I find it fascinating that they have this manuscript and we get to find out “what happens next” after all these years. In fact I’m going to read To Kill a Mockingbird again prior to the release of Go Set A Watchman to refresh my memory. Maybe it won’t be as polished, but I don’t care. How often does an opportunity like this come along? Like you said, I just hope Harper Lee gets credit for it too.

    • It is exciting isn’t it Susan despite the hesitations about Harper lee being a full participant as it were. But it doesn’t seem in question that the publication will take place. And good idea to read TKAMB again. I read it as part of me Writing Certificate course, a few years ago, so it’s pretty fresh for me. But I’d forgotten loads since I read it in my teens.
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  15. I’ve always wondered why Harper Lee did not write more. Perhaps the reason is commonly known, but to me it has always been a mystery. Sometimes people have one major story that’s of interest to them to write. Sometimes people write versions of the same story over and over. In this case, I can identify with Harper Lee, as my first novel (self-published) went through a similar process and ended up much more like a teen story. The bigger, more adult version sits in a likely dusty box as well as on a disc. Imagine, there is more to the one story! I look forward to gaining a new perspective when I read it.

    • I’m not sure it is clear Kathleen as to why Harper Lee didn’t write any other novels. But how interesting that you have been through a similar process. I’m sure there is certainly more than one story in all your notes (and life!). It will be particularly interesting for you then to see how the new work manifests itself. I think as authors, it can take a while for us to truly find the story we want to tell. Good insight on your part too that other novelists continually re-cover the same theme – and yet a good author always makes it sound unique. As always, good to see you here:-)
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  16. I have mixed feelings on this. Of course I will read it and with much interest. No refresher of TKAM will be needed as I’ve read it too many times to count due to teaching it to high school freshmen year in and year out. What bothers me is that Lee most likely is not capable of making the best decisions in this case given her age, health, and background as a recluse. Still though, the reading public is going to gobble the new release up regardless.
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    • I completely agree Jeri , and I’m sure you know this novel inside & out. It’s a great vehicle for teaching actually and we referred to it numerous times during my Creative Writing Certificate program. But yes, one can only hope that Harper Lee is involved in some way. She will at least get the credit from her fans when it’s released, who as you say will gobble it up.
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  17. You’ve touched on all the questions that occurred to me when I heard about this on the news the other day. I definitely think it’s worth a read though, even given these considerations. Thanks for answering some of my curiosities!

  18. When I first heard the news I was intrigued and am now more excited than ever and intend to make it an event by re-reading To Kill a Mocking Bird and then diving straight into the new one. There is a lot of mystery around this manuscript. Why it turned up being the main mystery. I am not expecting it to be a masterpiece as that would be too much to ask but like you, I am looking at it more from an evolutionary perspective which is rare in itself.
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  19. I didn’t read the novel but truly enjoyed the movie but I will read the sequel.

  20. I’m eager to read this newly discovered original book and I don’t care if it’s not polished. What fun to be able to read more about those characters!
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  21. I think this is a good thing in several ways. It may very well be better than her first novel. Given how the traditional publishing industry is so subjective the real ‘first’ novel may be better. I am very interested to see this.
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  22. I did not read the novel but now I am feeling to search if there is any movie. I have never heard about Ms. Lee. It is great to know about great writers from your posts.
    You have addressed a lot of questions and it is nice to know about both the novels.

    Thank you for sharing.
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  23. I had heard that Harper Lee would publish another novel, but that’s all. The circumstances concern me too. Is this really her choice? 55 years is a long time to go without publishing when you have a book to publish. I suspect that it’s not entirely her idea, but she also might not care too much at this point. As you say in your post, the benefit is really to those of us who would like see the genesis of To Kill a Mockingbird. Not only is always interesting to see an author’s earlier, unpublished works, but it can also be a relief to find out that they might not have always written brilliant prose 😉

    • Thanks for your insightful comment Marie. I hadn’t thought of it in the sense that she might not always have been brilliant. But I agree that 55 yrs is a long time & things have dramatically changed in the process since then. That said, while it may not have been entirely her idea, she may not care, & doubtless will be protected from much of the potentially negative sides to the venture
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  24. With as much as I already have on my reading list, this probably won’t even crack the surface. For the most part the type of story isn’t something I go out of my way to find. If I were in a class that it became required reading for then, sure I would give it a go. But I can’t see going out of my way for it.
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  25. Glad I just saw this article A.K. I am excited about Lee’s sequel. Of course it will feel strange reading it, knowing that she is much older now and like you said, who knows how much it has been tinkered with. But the fact that she had actually written it and only ever published one important book that rose to fame is enough to stir my curiosity.
    Great article as always. 🙂
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