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.”

Ama­ 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.

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