For over 50 years, To Kill a Mockingbird has stood as Harper Lee's notable and solitary contribution to the literary world. It is the only book she's ever published, and the sole legacy of a private author who rarely engaged with the media. Now, that is all about to change with the publication of a second novel by Lee called Go Set a Watchman. (Though in the hours since the news broke, people have been asking a lot of questions about it.)
Lee actually wrote Go Set a Watchman in the mid-1950s, before To Kill a Mockingbird. "[Watchman] features the character known as Scout as an adult woman, and I thought it a pretty decent effort," the now-88-year-old Lee said in a statement issued by publisher Harper. "My editor, who was taken by the flashbacks to Scout's childhood, persuaded me to write a novel (which became To Kill a Mockingbird) from the point of view of the young Scout."
Lee released the Pulitzer Prize-winning To Kill a Mockingbird on July 11, 1960. What was essentially a prequel to her original effort went on to become one of the most widely-read and recognized novels in history, selling over 40 million copies worldwide.
Lee reports that her "dear friend and lawyer Tonja Carter" discovered the manuscript of Go Set a Watchman in a "secure location where it had been affixed to an original typescript of To Kill a Mockingbird." After sharing the re-discovered work with a few trusted confidants, Lee "was pleased to hear that they considered it worthy of publication."
The book is set roughly contemporaneously with Lee's writing, in the thick of the Civil Rights Movement, and centers on an adult Scout returning from New York to Alabama to visit her father, Atticus.
"She is forced to grapple with issues both personal and political as she tries to understand her father's attitude toward society, and her own feelings about the place where she was born and spent her childhood," the publisher's announcement says.
Publisher Harper plans a first run of 2 million copies, to be released July 14.