To Kill a Mockingbird author Harper Lee has died at the age of 89.
Mockingbird remains a towering presence in American literature, telling the tale of a white lawyer defending a black man accused of rape in the Deep South.
The book sold more than 40 million copies worldwide and 55 years after it was published, in 2015, Harper Lee released the sequel, Go Set a Watchman.
Tributes have been paid to the writer, who rarely gave interviews despite her fame.
George W. Bush, who awarded Harper Lee the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2007, said she was “a legendary novelist and lovely lady”.
Harper Lee was born 1926 in Monroeville, Alabama. She was the youngest of four children of lawyer Amasa Coleman Lee and Frances Cunningham Finch Lee.
She was a guardedly private person, respected and protected by residents of her town, rarely giving interviews.
Harper Lee’s literary agent Andrew Nurnberg said: “Knowing Nelle these past few years has been not just an utter delight but an extraordinary privilege.
“When I saw her just six weeks ago, she was full of life, her mind and mischievous wit as sharp as ever. She was quoting Thomas More and setting me straight on Tudor history. We have lost a great writer, a great friend and a beacon of integrity.”
The manuscript for the sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird, Go Set A Watchman was discovered and published in 2015.
Many bookshops remained open all night to cope with demand on the day of the novel’s release last July.
The book is set 20 years after the events of To Kill a Mockingbird – although Harper Lee actually wrote Go Set a Watchman first.
Watchman contains some of the same characters as Mockingbird, including Scout and her father Atticus Finch.
The publication proved controversial as early reviewers noted that Atticus Finch expresses racist views in the story.
In 1962, To Kill a Mockingbird was made into a film starring Gregory Peck as Atticus Finch and Mary Badham as Scout. The novel is currently being adapted for the stage.
Harper Lee’s novel, Go Set a Watchman, has gone on sale around the world.
The book is set 20 years after the events of Harper Lee’s 1960 Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird.
In Harper Lee’s hometown, Monroeville in Alabama, a delivery of 7,000 copies of Go Set a Watchman arrived at the small independent Ol’ Curiosities and Book Shoppe shortly before midnight.
The book contains some of the same characters at Mockingbird, including Scout and her father Atticus Finch. It has already proved controversial as early reviewers noted that Atticus Finch expresses racist views in the story.
The story opens with Scout, now 26 and known as Jean Louise, returning on a train to her Alabama hometown from New York.
Harper Lee, who is now 89 and lives in a nursing home in Monroeville, originally wrote the book in 1957, before reworking it with her editor to become courtroom drama To Kill a Mockingbird.
The story of racism and injustice in the fictional town of Maycomb in the American South went on to sell 40 million copies and be studied in schools around the world.
To Kill a Mockingbird was also made into an Oscar-winning film starring Gregory Peck as lawyer Finch, who defends an innocent black man accused of raping a white woman.
The existence of Go Set a Watchman was revealed in February 2015 and it is being released in 70 countries simultaneously.
The opening chapter of the novel was published for the first time on July 10, and many early reviews revealed that in later years Finch had in fact become “a bigot”.
The New York Times said the revelation could “reshape Ms Lee’s legacy” and made for “disturbing reading”.
Harper Lee’s unpublished novel Go Set a Watchman is to be released 60 years after the author put it aside to write To Kill a Mockingbird.
Go Set a Watchman, which features the character of Scout as an adult, will be released on July 14.
Harper Lee wrote the novel in the mid-1950s but put it aside on the advice of her editor.
“I thought it a pretty decent effort.” said the author in a statement.
“I am humbled and amazed that this will now be published after all these years.”
Set in the fictional southern town of Maycomb during the mid-1950s, Go Set a Watchman sees Scout return from New York to visit her father, the lawyer Atticus Finch.
According to the publisher’s announcement: “She is forced to grapple with issues both personal and political as she tries to understand her father’s attitude toward society, and her own feelings about the place where she was born and spent her childhood.”
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