Feelings on Harper Lee’s Latest Book

Go Set a Watchman by Harper LeeYesterday the bookternet exploded with the news that Harper Lee is going to publish a new book. Yes, that Harper Lee. The new book, Go Set A Watchman, is reputedly a sequel to To Kill A Mockingbird. Everyone, it seems, is jubilant with the news. I’m a little more circumspect, shall we say.

Like just about everyone else in the free world, I loved To Kill A Mockingbird. It was brilliant, sensitive, and so, so important. It is just one of THOSE books. And yes, I have always wished that Lee had written more. But not like this.

Lee has lived a quite life, avoiding the spotlight. She is now an old woman, who is reported to be quite deaf, nearly blind, confined to a wheelchair most of the time and suffering from memory loss. And yet, her name has entered the headlines numerous times over the past two years with a hint of scandal attached to it.

First, in 2013 Lee launched a complaint against the son-in-law of her former agent, accusing him of trying to ‘dupe’ her into signing over the copyright of To Kill A Mockingbird to him. The alleged events took place after she suffered a stroke in 2007.

Then in 2014 she was once again involved in legal proceedings – this time with the local museum, accused of using the name of her book for profit and publicity. They settled for an undisclosed amount.

And now this. It all seems like a lot of commotion for a woman who wanted to liHarper Leeve a quite life, outside of the spotlight. It almost seems as though someone in the background is orchestrating all of this. Moreover, Lee could have published Watchman anytime in the past 54 years, as it was written before Mockingbird. So why didn’t she?

All this leads to the inevitable question – am I going to read Watchman? Maybe. If I do I will go into it knowing that it won’t be as good as Mockingbird. It just can’t be. Also, the publisher is putting it out ‘as is’. Never a good idea in my mind. Mockingbird underwent several drafts and that is part of what made it so great.

But the publication of Watchman will be the publishing event of the summer, so I can hardly sit back and not read it. It’s just not in me.

What are you going to do? What are your feelings on this issue?

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27 Comments

  1. I was very surprised to hear about this book. I agree with you that the circumstances seem a little odd. I also don’t know whether I will, or even want to, read this book. Mockingbird in my mind is nearly perfect, and I would like to preserve that perfection.

  2. So I haven’t read Mockingbird and quite frankly, didn’t realize Harper Lee was still alive, so this news wasn’t a big deal for me. But then I read online about the past few years, about her sister being her legal rep and protecting her from things like this happening, and now the sister has passed away and the book is being released? Hmm. At first I thought it was a case of a deceased author and a manuscript being discovered, that I can understand. But if all this time she has had it and not wanted to release it, there is a reason for it and those wishes should be respected no matter how much time has lapsed. That being said, I wouldn’t fault someone who wants to read it.

  3. I sincerely hope no one is trying to go against Lee’s wishes, or take advantage of her inability to articulate her wishes or to understand what is being asked of her. As for reading the book, I will probably wait and see. It would be fun to read about an older Scout, but only if it is well done like her first novel.

  4. I have some weird feelings about this. From everything we’ve heard about Lee in the last few years, it seems like the people who are supposed to be helping her are maybe more interested in their own personal gain than in protecting her interests. The timing does seem suspect, and I’m nervous about this book being published without her consent — since it seems she might not be capable of granting or denying it. And yet, I don’t think I would object to her “lost” work being published after her death; the timing just seems underhanded.

  5. I feel exactly the same as you. I read that Vanity Fair article about her former agent’s son-in-law and it was SHADY. As you say, she’s not well and I don’t know that she has enough of her faculties to actually make this decision. I hope she’s not being taken advantage of. Someone at work wondered out loud yesterday if she even wrote it.

    It’s going to be impossible not to read this book though.

  6. I just don’t know about this. I get a little niggly feeling about it, but will I be able to prevent myself from reading it? If there are enough bad reviews of it, then I think I will manage to keep my eyes off of it. I don’t want to see Lee in any other light than as a woman who wrote a brilliant book. -Tania

  7. I spoke about this on my blog as well. I plan to read the new book, knowing full well that it was published in the mid-50s and before Mockingbird and hasnt likely been fully vented or edited. I think it will be valuable to the scholarship surrounding her classic. I’m optimistic it wont take away from her more famous book and may be interesting too. cheers. http://www.thecuecard.com

  8. I’m still struggling with what to think too. It’s hard not to assume there’s something a little devious in play, since she’s been so secretive all her life and now is dealing with health issues. But yeah, I also don’t want to miss out on reading the book and seeing what it’s about. It’s a complicated situation.

  9. Pingback: Monday Musings | Harper Lee and Posthumous Works | One More Page...

  10. I would love to read a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird, it’s one of my all-time favorite books, and I was stoked when I read the news about a sequel being published. But knowing the back story now, I am a little wary. It seems she has very little to do with the decision to publish this book 😦

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