Harper Lee, elusive author of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ is dead
By Emily Langer
Harper Lee at the White House in 2007. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view,” Atticus Finch tells his daughter, Scout, in one of the most memorable passages of the classic novel “To Kill a Mockingbird” — “until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”
Few people in the world could claim to really understand Harper Lee, the novel’s elusive author, who has died at 89 in Monroeville, Ala.
She withdrew from public life shortly after her book was published in 1960, only to reappear in old age with the sensational release of “Go Set a Watchman,” a manuscript identified as a long-lost early draft of the book that decades earlier had vaulted her to literary renown.
“To Kill a Mockingbird,” a coming-of-age story set in the Depression-era South where Ms. Lee grew up, received the Pulitzer Prize for fiction in 1961 and sold more than 40 million copies, becoming one of the most cherished novels in modern American literature. One oft-cited survey asked respondents to name the book that most profoundly affected their lives. Ms. Lee’s novel ranked near the top, not far behind the Bible.