The Guardian is to publish the first chapter of Harper Lee’s forthcoming novel Go Set a Watchman (William Heinemann) ahead of publication, as part of the publicity campaign building up to the novel’s release next week.
Go Set a Watchman will be released on Tuesday 14th July. The Guardian will post the first chapter of the novel on its website on Friday (10th July), and in print in Guardian Weekend on 11th July.
The newly released novel is set after To Kill a Mockingbird and features the protagonist from that story, Scout Finch, as an adult. As part of the pre-publicity, the Sunday Times Magazine’s Tanya Gold travelled to Monroeville in Alabama, where Lee lives in an assisted-living facility. In a piece published yesterday (5th July), Gold spoke to people in the town, including Sam Therell, a restaurant owner, who said that if Lee’s sister Alice was still alive Go Set a Watchman “would never have been published”.
Wayne Flynt, a friend of Lee’s, told Gold that Lee’s nephew Hank Conner asked her five times in two days if she was sure she wanted Go Set a Watchman published, and she said “of course”.
Cornerstone, whose William Heinemann imprint will publish Go Set a Watchman, collaborated with the Sunday Times on its piece, as well as with Gaby Wood of the Telegraph on a long-form piece that ran at the weekend. Lee’s agent Andrew Nurnberg told Wood that because Go Set a Watchman is “seen through the eyes of an adult and not through the eyes of a child things are much more nuanced”.
“This was a very difficult time for people in the South, and people would veer from one position to another during those times of segregation,” he continued.
So far only one sentence from Go Set a Watchman has been released to the public: “Every man’s island, Jean Louise, every man’s watchman, is his conscience.”
Go Set a Watchman has been heavily embargoed. No proofs have been sent out, and international publishers interested in publishing the novel were reportedly asked to fly to London to read the manuscript at Nurnberg’s offices.
Review copies will not be on offer until publication day.