She’s vanished again. Sadly, we do know now that she’s never coming back. On Friday, it was confirmed that Nelle Harper Lee, the author of ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’, had died at the age of 89 in her native Monroeville, Alabama, peacefully in her sleep. She never married, nor had children; the only thing that she leaves behind are her two novels: ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ and ‘Go, Set A Watchman’, published 55 years later.
It still seems like yesterday when the culture world was shocked upon finding out that Lee was going to publish a sequel to her incredibly successful first novel. And she did: ‘Go, Set A Watchman’ was published last year; a new novel that, according to critics, wasn’t as good as everyone had expected. Actually, Harper Lee had begun working on this piece even before her first novel. After 50 years of success with what was going to be her only novel, Lee began to work again on that abandoned text for two years without telling anyone, not even her editor.
As said, critics found the book not as brilliant as expected. Maybe it was because it just couldn’t compete with the excellence of ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’, which is considered as one of the greatest American novels of all time. A classic which is still a compulsory book to read in many schools of USA. Sometimes, the question is: what generated the instant and spontaneous success of this novel, the writer’s extraordinary style or the issue it was dealing with?
Both could be a correct answer. ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ is a curious combination between a story and the writer’s own life as well as her observations about the America where she lived. We all know very well the story of how Atticus Finch defended a black man accused of raping a white woman; but the root of this story is even more interesting.
We should remember Lee for daring to talk about an issue that was on its breaking point in the beginning of the 60’s. ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ was published just in the same time that the movement for civil rights in USA began to rumble. Lee won the Pulitzer Award for her work the following year, and two years later, the famous movie, starring Gregory Peck, was released. Then, she was gone.
Until last year, we had known nothing about Harper Lee. Her career has been considered by may writers as an exceptional case of just one brilliant work. Nevertheless, despite the critics, the novel was very welcomed by the her audience. Now, we may not know very much about that girl who lived in Alabama and was always keeping her secrets for herself, but her work will never die.