Ready or not, readers get sneak peek at Harper Lee's 'Go Set a Watchman'

Harper Lee's second novel isn't set for publication until July 14, but readers are getting a sneak preview of the first chapter Friday.

Jay Reeves/AP
A sign welcomes book fans to Monroeville, Ala., the hometown of 'To Kill a Mockingbird' author Harper Lee, July 8. Ms. Lee's second book 'Go Set a Watchman' is set for release July 14, and town officials are hoping the new novel draws more visitors to the quiet town of 6,300 people.

On Friday, the world got a sneak preview of the first chapter of Harper Lee’s new book: “Go Set a Watchman.”

The book, which has been called “the most unexpected second novel in memory,” is set to be released July 14. Meanwhile, the first chapter ran in both the Wall Street Journal and the Guardian on Friday.

Harper Lee fans were taken by surprise in February when HarperCollins Publishers announced the book’s pending release. Ms. Lee won the Pulitzer Prize for her 1960 book ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ but the author now has poor vision and hearing, and is known to have struggled to write another book in the wake of her first novel’s success. These circumstances have left some to speculate that Lee may not be fully aware of her new book’s publication.

“Harper Lee’s book ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ just may be the greatest one-hit wonder ever, in any medium, in any genre," wrote the Monitor’s Harry Bruinius, of the mystery surrounding the announcement. “So the knowledge that there exists another story of Scout and Atticus Finch, a novel titled ‘Go Set a Watchman,’ and that it has supposedly existed in some bank vault for more than 50 years, is both thrilling and ... strange?”

The Alabama Department of Human Resources launched an investigation into whether Lee may have been a victim of elder abuse but ultimately decided that such suspicions were unfounded.

Lee’s lawyer, literary agent, and publisher have all maintained that she is aware and pleased that the book is coming out.

“I’m alive and kicking and happy as hell with the reactions to ‘Watchman,’ ” Lee said earlier this year in a statement through her attorney.

The new book takes place in the 1950s, 20 years after the setting for ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’ Both of Lee’s books are set in the south, a region known for its literary prowess.

“Perhaps more than any other place since 19th-century New England, the South has been the inkwell for many of the country’s most enduring works of fiction – and Faulkner one of the most analyzed writers since Shakespeare,” wrote Harry Bruinius and Carmen K. Sisson in a recent Monitor cover story.

“But without question, the most beloved story produced during that time was Harper Lee’s 1960 novel, ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’ ”

Fans of "To Kill a Mockingbird" are eagerly anticipating the book’s release, anxious to know what happens with the novel’s beloved characters. Publisher Harper Collins said that pre-orders for ‘Go Set a Watchman’ are the highest in company history. Bookstores around the world are planning to celebrate its release. 

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