The news that Harper Lee has written a sequel to her classic 1960 novel To Kill a Mockingbird and will be publishing it this summer first sounded like a hoax to me. After the news had been confirmed and slowly settled in, to say that I was startled would be putting it mildly; it was simply astonishing news. The novel’s many fans had long inured themselves to Lee’s seemingly irreversible decision not to write another novel. I remembered back in 1990, in 9th grade, in the introductory remarks on the book made by my English teacher, Lee once declared that her pen simply “froze”, after the maelstrom of publicity and praise Mockingbird received, and she firmly rejected her loving, demanding audience’s repeated efforts to interview her or persuade her to write something more.
That all said, I could understand how shocking the news of a “lost” sequel is to readers. The announcement of the new book, to be published this summer, leaves her hometown bemused and skeptical. So this “new” novel has been a huge controversy because Lee has been accused of reneging. But for those who really read, and are familiar with the background of Mockingbird, the reason the word “sequel” has been bandied about is that Go Set a Watchman was drafted from the perspective of Scout as an adult in the 1950s, visiting Atticus back home in Maycomb, and remembering her childhood during the Depression. Lee was advised by an editor to redraft the novel from the child Scout’s point of view, cutting the later plot material and turning what had been flashbacks into the novel itself. This earlier draft will now be published; Lee’s agent reports that Lee told him it is not a sequel, but “the parent to Mockingbird”.
In anticipation to and preparation for the new book, it’s high time to re-read The Kill A Mockingbird.