Harper Lee’s novel, Go Set a Watchman, has gone on sale around the world.
The book is set 20 years after the events of Harper Lee’s 1960 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird.
In Harper Lee’s hometown, Monroeville in Alabama, a delivery of 7,000 copies of Go Set a Watchman arrived at the small independent Ol’ Curiosities and Book Shoppe shortly before midnight.
The book contains some of the same characters at Mockingbird, including Scout and her father Atticus Finch. It has already proved controversial as early reviewers noted that Atticus Finch expresses racist views in the story.
The story opens with Scout, now 26 and known as Jean Louise, returning on a train to her Alabama hometown from New York.
Harper Lee, who is now 89 and lives in a nursing home in Monroeville, originally wrote the book in 1957, before reworking it with her editor to become courtroom drama To Kill a Mockingbird.
The story of racism and injustice in the fictional town of Maycomb in the American South went on to sell 40 million copies and be studied in schools around the world.
To Kill a Mockingbird was also made into an Oscar-winning film starring Gregory Peck as lawyer Finch, who defends an innocent black man accused of raping a white woman.
The existence of Go Set a Watchman was revealed in February 2015 and it is being released in 70 countries simultaneously.
The opening chapter of the novel was published for the first time on July 10, and many early reviews revealed that in later years Finch had in fact become “a bigot”.
The New York Times said the revelation could “reshape Ms Lee’s legacy” and made for “disturbing reading”.
Harper Lee’s unpublished novel Go Set a Watchman is to be released 60 years after the author put it aside to write To Kill a Mockingbird.
Go Set a Watchman, which features the character of Scout as an adult, will be released on July 14.
Harper Lee wrote the novel in the mid-1950s but put it aside on the advice of her editor.
“I thought it a pretty decent effort.” said the author in a statement.
“I am humbled and amazed that this will now be published after all these years.”
Set in the fictional southern town of Maycomb during the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman sees Scout return from New York to visit her father, the lawyer Atticus Finch.
According to the publisher’s announcement: “She is forced to grapple with issues both personal and political as she tries to understand her father’s attitude toward society, and her own feelings about the place where she was born and spent her childhood.”
To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee has denied she approved the writing of a memoir about her life in Alabama by former neighbor Marja Mills.
“Rest assured, as long as I am alive any book purporting to be with my cooperation is a falsehood,” Harper Lee, 88, wrote in a letter.
Its circulation coincided with the publication of the book, by former Chicago Tribune reporter Marja Mills.
Marja Mills responded by saying her book had the “blessing” of Harper Lee and her sister.
The writer moved next door to Harper Lee and Alice Lee’s Monroeville home in 2004, remaining there for 18 months.
“Nelle Harper Lee and Alice F. Lee were aware I was writing this book,” she went on.
“The stories they shared with me that I recount in the book speak for themselves.”
Harper Lee first distanced herself from The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee when Penguin announced its publication in 2011 (photo Penguin)
Harper Lee first distanced herself from The Mockingbird Next Door: Life with Harper Lee when Penguin announced its publication in 2011.
At the time, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author said she had not “willingly participated” or “authorized” [sic] the book and that “any claims otherwise [were] false”.
Harper Lee reiterated her position earlier this week, claiming Marja Mills had befriended her sister and that she had been “hurt, angry and saddened, but not surprised” to discover her “true mission” had been “another book about Harper Lee”.
“I immediately cut off all contact with Miss Mills, leaving town whenever she headed this way.”
In her rebuttal, Marja Mills referred to a letter she received from Alice Lee in 2011 saying her sister’s initial denial had been written by others for her to sign.
“Poor Nelle Harper can’t see and can’t hear and will sign anything put before her by anyone in whom she has confidence,” Alice Lee’s letter went on.
Harper Lee’s latest letter says her sister “would have been 100 years old at the time” she made that statement.
In her book, Marja Mills writes that she became part of the Lee sisters’ social circle and that she had won their trust.
On Tuesday, Penguin Press said it was “proud” to publish the memoir, which it said had been “a labor [sic] of love”.