There will be no third Harper Lee novel on bookstore shelves.
In early August, the Wall Street Journal reported that Harper Lee’s attorney, Tonja Carter, hinted that an unpublished manuscript had been found in Lee’s security deposit box. Prior to the apparent discovery, the only record of Lee’s unpublished works was in the archive of her former literary agents housed at Columbia University. But the archive only listed the assorted works, which range from short stories to a novel titled The Long Goodbye.
Tonja Carter announced the discovery of what she called a “significant number of pages of another typed text” shortly before the release of the newly discovered Harper Lee novel, Go Set a Watchman. Carter suggested that the pages may be a third manuscript which Harper Lee intended to bridge To Kill A Mocking Bird and Go Set a Watchman, which occur nearly twenty decades apart.
As it turns out, that was not the case. The Wall Street Journal now reports that rare-books expert James S. Jaffe determined that the pages are typescript drafts of Go Set a Watchman and To Kill a Mockingbird. According to Jaffe, the early draft of To Kill a Mockingbird as has a different opening from the published version and contains passages similar to Go Set a Watchman.
Go Set a Watchman‘s release was controversial. The New York Times referred to Go Set a Watchman as an early work which Harper Lee submitted for publication in 1957. Through several drafts guided by Harper Lee’s editor, Therese von Hohoff Torrey, Go Set a Watchman became To Kill a Mockingbird. In fact, the New York Times credits von Hohoff Torry almost as much as Harper Lee for To Kill a Mockingbird‘s transformation into the classic it became.
Entertainment Weekly gave Harper Lee’s long-awaited sophomore novel a D+. Entertainment Weekly called Lee’s work a “sluggishly-paced first draft, replete with incongruities, bad dialogue, and underdeveloped characters,” and the publication noted that the issues with the book stem from the fact that it was a first draft rather than a manuscript ready to be published.
Yet, the millions of Harper Lee fans who grew up with Scout Finch and the world Harper Lee created for her seemed more than willing to accept the draft as an official work. According to Reuters, Go Set a Watchman just finished its sixth week at the top of the U.S. fiction bestsellers list.
So far, neither Tonja Carter nor Harper Lee’s publisher, HarperCollins, have commented on Jaffe’s determination or what will happen to the mysterious pages.
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