When it was announced that a new novel by Harper Lee would be released this year, one that carries on the story of her classic work To Kill a Mockingbird, a wave of excitement erupted. Not long after that, however, some skepticism was raised. This had to do with a claim made by Lee’s sister, Alice, a lawyer who fiercely defended her sister’s estate, who said: “Harper can’t see and can’t hear and will sign anything put before her by anyone in whom she has confidence.” Because of this, many began speculating that the only reason the novel is being released now is that Alice passed away shortly ago, leaving Lee vulnerable to signing a potentially exploitative contract. Lee’s mental status is often referred to as “senile”, or at the very least seriously impaired.
When these speculations came out, Lee (through her lawyer Tonja Carter) responded by saying that she was “extremely hurt” by the suggestion that she was incapable of dealing with her own affairs. At this point in time, the rationale as to why Go Set a Watchman is being released now is unspecified, other than that it has been a long time coming. Anticipation is high, but it’s worth further delving into the context from which the novel’s publication arises, given Lee’s mental state.
Watch a short CBS Evening News report on the novel:
Go Set a Watchman is out on 14 July through HarperCollins.