Harper Lee’s new novel falls short

Whitney Cale
Staff Writer

One of the most highly acclaimed novels in history, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” was the only published work accredited to Harper Lee for 55 years — that is, until she published the so-called “sequel” to this Pulitzer Prize-winning best-seller.

Originally written in the mid-1950s, Lee’s second work, “Go Set a Watchman,” was not actually published until July 14, 2015, 55 years and three days after the publishing of her first book on July 11, 1960.
Ironically, “Go Set a Watchman” was the novel that Harper Lee submitted to her publishers before “To Kill a Mockingbird.” However, the manuscript was assumed to be lost and, therefore, “To Kill a Mockingbird” was the first and only book published by Lee at the time.

“To Kill a Mockingbird” reached staggering heights in its fame and fortune. It was published during the civil rights era and dealt with issues such as racism and genderism; it is no surprise that the public took an interest in the book.

The same cannot be said, however, for Lee’s new novel.

“Because ‘Go Set a Watchman’ is Harper Lee’s second novel, naturally there is a tendency to compare it to her masterpiece, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ ” said Katherine Connolly, a freshman nursing major from Bay Minette. “It’s not ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’ This book, to me, is based on today’s American views. It has a ton of potential but not as much as ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ had when it came out.”

The excitement for “Go Set a Watchman” can be attributed to the reputation of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
“I think ‘Go Set a Watchman’ sold easily because of the popularity of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’” said Hannah Ray, a junior nursing major from Holtville. “It received a lot of media attention.”
According to records from Troy University’s campus bookstore, 47 copies of “Go Set a Watchman” have been sold.

“When it first came out, it was a big buzz,” said Aliza McGee, store manager of Barnes and Noble at Troy University. “Other than that — after a week — it’s died down.”

I think it’s clear that people hold high expectations for “Go Set a Watchman,” which is evidenced by the hype it received prior to its publication. According to various readers’ opinions and the recent decline of sales, I think it is also clear that “Go Set a Watchman” will never reach the same heights that “To Kill a Mockingbird” reached.

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