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Mockingbird:A Portrait of Harper Lee: From Scout to Go Set a WatchmanBy Charles J. Shields
About the Book
An extensively revised and updated edition of the bestselling biography of Harper Lee, reframed from the perspective of the recent publication of Lees Go Set a Watchman
To Kill a Mockingbirdthe twentieth centurys most widely read American novelhas sold thirty million copies and still sells a million yearly. In this in-depth biography, first published in 2006, Charles J. Shields brings to life the woman who gave us two of American literatures most unforgettable characters, Atticus Finch and his daughter, Scout.
Years after its initial publicationwith revisions throughout the book and a new epilogueShields finishes the story of Harper Lees life, up to its end. Theres her former agent getting her to transfer the copyright for To Kill a Mockingbird to him, the death of Lees dear sister Alice, a fuller portrait of Lees editor, Tay Hohoff, andmost vitallythe release of Lees long-buried first novel and the ensuing public devouring of what has truly become the book of the year, if not the decade: Lees Go Set a Watchman.
1. Would you say that Harper Lees character and personality are consistent throughout her life? Why?
2. Harper Lee relied on events, people, and circumstances from her early life to create both To Kill a Mockingbird and Go Set a Watchman. Does this mean her novels are autobiographical?
3. Segregationists made the argument that keeping the races separate contributed to law and order. What do you think of that argument? Is it justified?
4. Harper Lee and Truman Capote knew they were different somehow from other people. Have you had that feeling? Are there differences that are unacceptable?
5. Tay Hohoff played an important role in helping Harper Lee shape what became To Kill a Mockingbird. Is that a comment on the authors talent?
6. Should Go Set a Watchman have been released in 1960?
7. Gregory Peck insisted that the film To Kill a Mockingbird be reedited several times to make the character of Atticus more prominent at the expense of the childrens scenes. If youve seen the film, do you feel that it was better or worse for Peck getting his way?
8. What were the effects of Alice Lee taking control of her sisters affairs? Do you agree with the way she did?
9. If you could meet one of the people in Harper Lees life, who would it be? Why?
10. Whats your favorite part of the biography? Whats your least favorite?
About the AuthorCharles J. Shields is the author of And So It Goes: Kurt Vonnegut: A Life, Mockingbird: A Portrait of Harper Lee, the highly acclaimed, bestselling biography of Harper Lee, and I Am Scout: The Biography of Harper Lee (Henry Holt Books for Young Readers). He grew up in the Midwest and taught in a rural school in central Illinois for several years. He has been a reporter for public radio, a journalist, and the author of nonfiction books for young people. He and his wife live near Charlottesville, Virginia.