Last year saw Harper Lee returning to the fictional town of Maycombe, Alabama with the release of her second novel, Go Set A Watchman, which will be making its way to paperback shortly. For anyone that has read her incredible, Pulizer prize winning debut novel, To Kill A Mockingbird, it inevitably going to be a must read and the paperback release will be the opportunity for people that don’t necessarily like or want to pay for the weightier hardback.
It will be available on paperback on Thursday the 11th February 2016 and has been given an RRP of £12.99, but most retailers are marking this down for pre-orders to around the £9 mark, which is still a little higher than your average paperback. However, and to add even more controversy to the mix, it’s currently available in hardback, which was released in July 2015, from Amazon for just £5, so if you don’t mind the extra arm exercise you could go for that now instead.
The story takes us back to the Finch family as Jean Louise “Scout” returns to her childhood home by train from her life in New York to spend some time with Atticus. However, the trip comes at another significant junction in all their lives and Scout learns yet more unsavoury truths about her town and this time about some of the people that she loves, giving her a new moral challenge to wrestle with. A lot has changed since that summer years ago, so fans of the original should brace themselves for at least a little uncomfortable reading, but there’s plenty to think about as the smaller story holds a lot of depth.
Go Set A Watchman was written before To Kill A Mockingbird, and it features moments where Scout thinks back on her childhood with her brother Jem and close friend Dill. While it doesn’t mention the central character Arthur “Boo” Radley, it does fit well with the plot of the original, as it’s these recollections that were used by Lee to turn the story into To Kill A Mockingbird following feedback on her initial manuscript.
You can read our review of Go Set A Watchman to find out more about what to expect from the book, but if you’re keen to avoid spoilers you might want to know that our closing review was that we “loved reading the new book, not just for what it says about society, but the beautiful, skillful and momentous way that it does it”. We gave it score of 4.7/5, and while it’s definitely worth reading it does take things in very different, but interconnected directions to the 1960 novel it inspired, so be prepared to be challenged.
Controversy about the late-in-the-day release of the book and questions about Harper Lee’s age and health in the decision to publish it have plagued the release of the book, and that’s still the case with the paperback edition. The fact that a State investigation into elder abuse as a result of the book’s publication was closed without action in April 2016 was enough to allow us to read the book without a bad conciseness, but you’ll need to make your own mind up.