Harper Lee (b. 1926) wrote her first novel, Go Set a Watchman (304 pp.), in the mid-1950s while she was in her thirties. The setting was roughly contemporary to Lee’s own time, featuring Maycomb County (an imaginary district in southern Alabama) during the 1950s. One of the main characters was an adult woman named Scout (Jean Louise) Finch, and the novel included flashback’s to her childhood.
Harper Lee’s editor was captured by these flashbacks and persuaded her to write a new novel with young Scout as the narrator, set in the same Alabama town 20 years earlier in the early 1930s. Lee recounts, “I thought [Go Set a Watchman] a pretty decent effort.” After being asked to set the book aside in order to write the prequel, she notes, ”I was a first-time writer, so I did as I was told.
That second novel became the famed To Kill a Mockingbird, which was published on July 11, 1960. It went on to sell 40 million copies worldwide, won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1961, and was enshrined in the American canon of literature.
In the fall of 2014, attorney Tonja Carter—family friend and successor in her sister’s law firm—discovered the manuscript in a secure location, affixed to an original typescript of To Kill a Mockingbird. Harper Lee was unaware that the book had survived, and was surprised and delighted to hear about its existence. She writes, “After much thought and hesitation, I shared it with a handful of people I trust and was pleased to hear that they considered it worthy of publication. I am humbled and amazed that this will now be published after all these years.”
In the next book, “Scout (Jean Louise Finch) has returned to Maycomb from New York 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 book will be released on July 14, 2015, with an initial printing of 2 million copies. You can pre-order it from Amazon here.
The title of the book is apparently an allusion to Isaiah 21:6, “For thus the Lord said to me: ‘Go, set a watchman; let him announce what he sees'” (ESV).