Harper Lee is ‘hurt and humiliated’ by suggestions that she has been manipulated into releasing a second book more than 50 years after the publication of To Kill a Mockingbird, according to her lawyer.
The 88-year-old author stunned the literary world last week with the announcement that an apparently long-lost novel, Go Set a Watchman, will be published later this year.
Suspicions quickly grew that Lee, who suffered a serious stroke in 2007 and never appears in public, may be too frail to have given genuine permission for the new book to be released.
In an interview with the New York Times, Lee’s lawyer and friend Tonja Carter disagreed with those theories.
“She is a very strong, independent and wise woman who should be enjoying the discovery of her long-lost novel,” Carter said.
“Instead, she is having to defend her own credibility and decision making.”
Carter, who apparently found the manuscript of Go Set a Watchman last year, said her client was ‘extremely hurt and humiliated’ by the speculation about her mental facilities.
Two other friends who recently visited Lee in her assisted living home in Alabama also told the New York Times that she seemed excited about the new book.
A statement in Lee’s name was released last week by her lawyers. “I’m alive and kicking and happy as hell with the reactions to Watchman,” it read.
It remains to be seen if the latest reaction from Carter will be enough to silence the suspicious murmurings.
To Kill a Mockingbird was published in 1960 and many of its admirers were disappointed by Lee’s decision not to bring out another book.
She told friends that she was content with one publication.
Go Set a Watchman had actually been her first work but Lee’s then editor asked her to rewrite it into what eventually became a completely different novel that was To Kill a Mockingbird.
The new book still centres around Scout Finch, the curious young girl protagonist of To Kill a Mockingbird, but portrays her as an adult who returns to her native Alabama to visit her father Atticus.
Carter also gave more details about discovering the Go Set a Watchman manuscript, saying she initially mistook it for a draft of To Kill a Mockingbird because of the recurring characters.
“I was so stunned. At the time I didn’t know if it was finished,” she said.
She took the document to Lee, who had long assumed it had been lost. Lee said it was complete and described it as ‘the parent of Mockingbird.”
To Kill a Mockingbird is one of the best-selling novels ever written and sales rose once again as a result of last week’s news.
Lee never married and has no children but was lifelong companions with her sister, Alice, a pioneering lawyer who lived to 103 and died in November.
Alice fiercely protected the privacy of her more famous sister and the two women lived together in a shared home in Alabama.
Some of the suspicions about Lee’s health stem from a lawsuit she filed against a literary agent who, she said, had duped her into signing over the copyright of To Kill a Mockingbird.
In the suit, she said she was increasingly hard of hearing and described how she was in an assisted living home because of her stroke.
The case was settled in 2013. She also sued a local museum alleging that it was using her name to sell souvenirs to visiting tourists without her permission or knowledge.