It has been confirmed by the Monroeville Mayor’s office that popular author Harper Lee has died 19th February, aged 89.
The novelist is best known for her literary magic ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ published in 1960, a popular choice in English classes and exams, which sold over 40 million copies worldwide.
Lee was born Nelle Harper Lee on 28th April 1926 in Monroeville, Alabama; the youngest of four children of lawyer Amasa Coleman Lee and Frances Cunningham Finch Lee.
As a child, she attended both elementary and high school just a few blocks from her house on Alabama Avenue. In an interview in 1964, she says “I went to school at the local grammar school, went to high school there, and then went to the University of Alabama. That’s about it, as far as education goes.”
In 1949, aged 23, Lee moved to New York to pursue her writing career, working as an airlines reservation clerk.
To Kill a Mockingbird was her first published novel, which immediately gained success, winning the Pulitzer Prize for fiction the next year. The book is set in Maycomb, Alabama, in the 1930s. Atticus Finch, a lawyer and a father, defends a black man, Tom Robinson, who is accused of raping a poor white girl, Mayella Ewell. The setting and several of the characters are drawn from life – Finch was the maiden name of Lee’s mother and the character of Dill was drawn from Capote, Lee’s childhood friend.
Although her first novel gained such huge success, Lee did not continue her career as a writer. She returned from New York to Monroeville, where she lived avoiding interviews as she was a guardedly private person, respected and protected by residents.
However, recently, a sequel to the novel has been released as ‘Go Set a Watchman’.
The book is set 20 years after the events of To Kill a Mockingbird – although Lee actually wrote Go Set a Watchman first – and contains some of the same characters, including Scout and her father Atticus Finch. However, the publication proved controversial as early reviewers noted that Atticus expresses racist views in the story.
“The world has lost a brilliant mind and a great writer,” said Spencer Madrie, owner of Ol’ Curiosities and Book Shoppe, a small, independent bookshop in Lee’s hometown. “We will remember Harper Lee for her candour, her talent, and the truths she gave the world, perhaps before the world was ready. We are grateful to have had a connection to an author who offered so much.”
Rest in Peace Nelle Harper Lee, and thank you for gracing us with your literary inspirations.