Seven years ago today, Go Set a Watchman, the highly anticipated follow-up to Harper Lee’s critically acclaimed novel To Kill a Mockingbird, was released. On July 14th, 2015, Lee’s second published novel became the most successful American adult novel after it sold more than 700,000 copies on the day of its release.
In early 2015, the world was shocked to hear that a new Harper Lee novel had been discovered and was going to be published by HarperCollins Publishers.
Allegedly, the manuscript for the novel was found by Lee’s lawyer when she was looking over an old draft of To Kill a Mockingbird. Tonja B. Carter was stunned when she realized that what she was reading was a completely different story than what was published in the 1960 classic, but with all the same beloved characters.
Interestingly, New York Times reporters tell a different story of how the book was found. Allegedly, Carter, Sam Pinkus (who was Lee’s literary agent), and Justin Caldwell (a rare books expert from Soethhy’s Auction House in London) found the manuscript years prior in 2011.
Regardless of how it was discovered, the announcement of the novel’s release in February 2015 shocked readers and was perhaps the most important literary moment of the decade.
Where the Story Picks Up
The novel takes place 20 years in the future following the events of To Kill a Mockingbird. Jean Louise Finch, or “Scout,” who is twenty-six years old and living in New York City, visits her hometown of Maycomb, Alabama. With the Civil Rights Movement on the rise in the South, Jean-Louise realizes how deep-rooted bigotry is in the town where she grew up, even amongst her family and friends.
Click here to learn more about why Go Set a Watchman‘s commentary on contemporary racism is so important.