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What to Expect From Harper Lee’s Long-Lost Second Novel

Controversy still surrounds the release of Go Set a Watchman

(Andrew Bertuleit Photography/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

Fans of To Kill a Mockingbird last left Scout Finch in the care of her father Atticus. In the over 50 years since the book’s publication, countless readers have wondered what happens next. Now, the wait is over: The Guardian has published the first chapter of Harper Lee’s follow-up, the long-lost Go Set a Watchman, in anticipation of the book’s Tuesday release.

The chapter is part of an interactive feature that includes voice narration by Reese Witherspoon and animated illustrations of Scout’s return home twenty years after readers left her. As Scout rides a train back to her hometown of Maycomb, readers will doubtless wonder what awaits her as she returns to her father as an adult. An early glimpse at the book shocked many reviewers, as Atticus is revealed to be a racist.

They may also wonder what the real story is behind the book’s much-anticipated publication. The sequel (really a prequel) was discovered last year and has become one of the literary world’s most hotly-awaited — and contested — events. The controversy has to do with Harper Lee’s sudden revelation that she had written another novel and her decision to release it after over 50 years of silence.

Speculation as to Lee’s mental state and her true intentions has fueled concern and even an elder abuse investigation since the announcement of the book’s publication. Last week, The New York Times’ Serge Fl. Kovaleski and Alexandra Alter revealed that despite claims that the book was discovered in 2014, it might have actually been found in 2011. This has stoked new concerns about Lee’s well-being, but the public may never get answers about the famously publicity-shy author’s true state of mind. The book is unlikely to offer any clues, either: it was apparently written before Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning classic.

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