“I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.”
These are the wise and noble words of Atticus Finch, the patriarch of the American classic “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
The novel, which has become a mainstay of high school reading lists, was written by Harper Lee and published in 1960. The novel saw immediate success and won a Pulitzer Prize. Lee’s publisher announced a sequel to the novel Tuesday, titled “Go Set a Watchman,” scheduled for release on July 14 this year.
“Go Set a Watchman” was actually written before “To Kill a Mockingbird” and details the life of beloved protagonist Scout as Jean Louise Finch, a grown woman who returns to her hometown of Maycomb, Alabama. Lee’s editor at the time was captivated by the flashback scenes of young Scout and persuaded Lee to write the novel from that perspective. After rewriting and publishing the novel, Lee assumed the original had been lost.
“I was a first-time writer, so I did as I was told. I hadn’t realized it had survived, so was surprised and delighted when my dear friend and lawyer Tonja Carter discovered it,” Lee said in a statement released by Harper Collins Publishers.
“To Kill A Mockingbird” is Lee’s only novel and was written based on her experiences growing up in rural Alabama in the 1930s. With wit and humor, Lee frames an image of American life at the time through the eyes of a young girl, while placing readers in the center of racial injustice.
“My book had a universal theme,” she said in the Birmingham Post-Herald in 1962. “It’s not a ‘racial’ novel. It portrays an aspect of civilization, not necessarily Southern civilization.”
Lee, who wanted to be known as the “Jane Austen of the South,” was taken aback by the novel’s instant success.
Having sold 30 million copies since its publication, and an estimated additional 1 million each year, “To Kill a Mockingbird” ranks among the best-selling books in the world. In 2006, the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council ranked the novel at the top of its “books every adult should read before they die” list, ahead of the Bible.
The sequel is said to focus on the relationship between Scout and her father, the brilliantly insightful lawyer who, in “To Kill a Mockingbird,” takes on a rape case between a black man and a white woman that creates uproar in the town.
“I am humbled and amazed that this will now be published, after all these years,” Lee said.
After Lee’s lawyer found the presumably lost manuscript late last year, Lee said she hesitantly shared the work with those close to her, all of whom felt the novel was worthy of publication. While it’s not uncommon for authors to publish additions to their work, the literary world is buzzing with excitement at the thought of bringing another life to these beloved characters.