After months of anticipation, Harper Lee’s ‘Go Set a Watchman’ released
Shortly after sunrise Tuesday, the doors opened at the Old Courthouse Museum in Monroeville, Alabama, and a bell tolled.
In the hometown and residence of Harper Lee, it was time to start a marathon reading of “Go Set a Watchman,” the second book no one ever thought they would see from the author of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
Lee fans worldwide stayed up late, awakened early and dashed off during meal breaks to pick up a copy of the year’s most anticipated novel, “Go Set a Watchman,” which came out Tuesday after months of the most unusual pre-publication attention in memory. From the moment publisher HarperCollins, announced “Watchman” in early February, reactions of ecstatic disbelief have been shadowed by concerns about the book’s quality, the 89-yearold Lee’s involvement in the release and the jarring transformation of Atticus Finch.
“I don’t think it’s going to damage Harper Lee’s legacy,” Susan Scullin, a reading teacher in New York City, said of “Watchman” as she prepared to buy a copy at the Barnes & Noble in Manhattan’s Union Square.
“It might damage Atticus Finch’s legacy, and that makes me a little nervous.”
Booksellers from Cambridge, Massachusetts to Downers Grove, Illinois opened at midnight Tuesday, while Barnes & Noble stores began selling copies at 7 a.m., two hours earlier than usual. Pre-orders have already made “Go Set a Watchman” one of the year’s top books and did not let up despite lukewarm reviews and the unwelcome news that Finch, one of the all-time literary heroes, was a bigot in “Watchman.”
Amazon.com has called “Watchman” its most popular pre-order since the last Harry Potter book, which came out in 2007. At Barnes & Noble, the comparisons were not to a phenomenon like Potter, but to a follow up: Mary Amicucci, the superstore chain’s vice-president for adult trade and children’s books, said that pre-orders were the highest since the 2009 release of Dan Brown’s “The Lost Symbol,” his first novel since “The Da Vinci Code.”
Sales for “Mockingbird,” already a consistent favourite, have doubled at Barnes & Noble since “Watchman” was announced.
In slightly varying accounts, Lee attorney Tonja Carter has said she came upon the “Watchman” manuscript last year while looking through some of the author’s papers. “Watchman” was written before “Mockingbird,” but takes place 20 years later, in the 1950s.
A grown-up Scout, now living in New York, is visiting her native Maycomb, Alabama, and observing a community terrified by the Supreme Court’s recent ruling that school segregation was unconstitutional. Scout herself is shaken when among those joining the racist mob is the man who in “Mockingbird” stood against it, her father, Atticus.
This photo taken last week shows a sign welcoming book fans to Monroeville, Ala., the hometown of “To Kill a Mockingbird” author Harper Lee. Lee’s second book “Go Set a Watchman” was released Tuesday.