Do people still send postcards these days…?
When, in February this year, news broke that the world was going to receive the gift of a ‘new’ novel from Harper Lee, it caused a stir not just in literary circles but but in the hearts and minds of all those who had read her only previous published novel, To Kill A Mockingbird. Since its publication in 1960 Lee’s mythologisation (and and that of the Finch family) has been ever-present, with the novel (rightly) respected of one of the great works of American fiction. A new novel, 55 years later, seemed unlikley, even fantastic.
And it was, sort of. Set to be published on 14th July, Go Set A Watchman was actually written in the mid-1950s, before To Kill A Mockingbird, and concerns an adult Scout Finch revisiting her father in Maycomb, Alabama 20 years after the events of the other novel. There was much controversy about the timing of the announcement of its publication and the ‘discovery’ of the manuscript after so many decades, with specific accusations of exploitation of an increasing frail and reclusive author (seemingly unfounded). Expectations are sky-high, but with a pedigree and a legend like this, the initial publication of 2 million copies seems a little on the low side.
In the UK the novel will be published by Heinemann who have produced these advertising postcards to accompany their campaign. I picked this up in Foyles bookshop on London’s South Bank, but I expect you’ll find them on the counters at many other outlets. The design plays heavily on the connection to the first novel, with Lee’s name heading the artwork and the subtext “By the author of To Kill A Mockingbird” set back, shadowing the title of the new work. It’s pertinent that the typeface of both titles is the same font size. The only non-textual segment features the titular mockingbird silhouetted astride a barren branch, a motif that echoes previous editions of the first novel, almost all of which include the bird, tree or both on their cover designs. This postcard design is in itself the cover design for the UK edition of the book. On the reverse the motif is recreated over in the stamp position with the now standard social media avatars, the date of publication and the tagline, “This summer, Scout Finch grows up”.
A very nice addition to the current advertising postcards doing the rounds, and one to send when you’ve read the novel to let your folks and friends know what you thought. Can it live up to these unrealistic expectations?