Arts

Questions Remain Week After ‘Go Set A Watchman’ Publication

Atticus Finch impersonator Eric Richardson reads “Go Set A Watchman” in the old Monroe County Courthouse on the afternoon of the book's release.
Atticus Finch impersonator Eric Richardson reads “Go Set A Watchman” in the old Monroe County Courthouse on the afternoon of the book's release.
Credit Andrea Mabry / AP Photo

It’s been one week since the release of Harper Lee’s novel “Go Set A Watchman.”

The book has sold over one million copies, but it has also elicited criticism and speculation from reviewers and “To Kill A Mockingbird” fans.

The novel, which is a sequel to “Mockingbird,” portrays the character Atticus Finch as a racist. Essential plot points from “Mockingbird” have changed.

Supposedly lost, Lee’s attorney found the manuscript to “Go Set A Watchman” last year. Some critics have claimed elder abuse, as Lee stated repeatedly in her life that she would never publish another novel.

To reflect on the commentary around the book, “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes spoke with Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Marja Mills.

Mills spent 18 months with Nelle Harper Lee, as she was known by her family, and Lee’s sister, Alice. She wrote a memoir about the experience called “The Mockingbird Next Door.”

The murky details surround the acquisition and publication of “Go Set A Watchman” have led Mills and others to question whether or not Lee wanted the novel to be published.

Almost 90 years old and partially blind and deaf, Lee suffered a severe stroke in 2007.

“I think that’s made it difficult for people to know how to even think about and approach this book. So many people want to know that her wishes are being respected,” Mills said.

To Mills, the writing also feel incomplete. “It doesn’t flow as well as ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ does … I think you are taken out of the story at times. Some of the dialog seems a little stilted.”

Mills doesn’t think the publication of “Go Set a Watchmen” will completely change what “To Kill A Mockingbird” represents to Americans. She said, however, “I think it will cause some re-evaluation.”

WABE brings you the local stories and national news that you value and trust. Please make a gift today.Donate Now