Entertainment

Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman sells 1.1M copies in 1st week

Go Set a Watchman, Harper Lee's sequel to the novel To Kill a Mockingbird, has become the fastest seller in its publisher's history, surpassing a million copies in its first week of release.

Sales of controversial book soar in just a single week

Go Set a Watchman was completed before Harper Lee's Pulitzer Prize-winning To Kill a Mockingbird, but is set in the same Alabama community 20 years later. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Critics dismissed it as a rough draft for To Kill a Mockingbird and readers despaired over an aging, racist Atticus Finch. But Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman is still a million seller.

HarperCollins announced Monday that Go Set a Watchman in its combined print, electronic and audio formats has sold 1.1 million copies in the U.S. and Canada, a figure which includes first-week sales and months of pre-orders. The publisher stunned the world in February when it revealed that a second novel was coming from Lee, who had long insisted that To Kill a Mockingbird would be her only book.

HarperCollins, where authors have included Michael Crichton and Veronica Roth, is calling Watchman its fastest seller in history. Other books have sold much faster: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, published in the U.S. by Scholastic in 2007, sold 8.3 million copies in its first 24 hours.

Watchman was released July 14 and as of early Monday remains at No. 1 on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com, with "Mockingbird" also in the top 10. HarperCollins has increased an initial print run of 2 million copies for "Watchman" to 3.3 million.

Watchman was completed before Lee's Pulitzer Prize-winning Mockingbird, but is set in the same Alabama community 20 years later. Critics and readers were startled to find the heroic Atticus of Mockingbird disparaging blacks and condemning the Supreme Court's decision to outlaw segregation in public schools.

Questions about the book arose almost immediately after HarperCollins announced it, with Lee scholars noting that Watchman was the work of a young and inexperienced author and friends and admirers of the 89-year-old author worrying that the book had been approved without her participation.

State officials in Lee's native Alabama, where she resides in an assisted living facility, met with her and concluded she was alert and able to make decisions about Watchman, which Lee attorney Tonja Carter has said she discovered last year.

Comments

To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.

Become a CBC Member

Join the conversation  Create account

Already have an account?

now