Wednesday 22 November 2017

Return of Harper Lee is a 'phenomenon' as bookshops hope for summer sales boom

A staff member in Waterstones lays out the display of the first ‘Go Set A Watchman’ books before they went on sale this morning in Piccadilly in London
A staff member in Waterstones lays out the display of the first ‘Go Set A Watchman’ books before they went on sale this morning in Piccadilly in London

Jane O'Faherty

Book shops are hoping that the sequel to Harper Lee's 'To Kill A Mockingbird' will prove a summer bestseller.

Stores across the country filled their shelves with 'Go Set A Watchman' overnight ahead of its much anticipated release today.

Several retailers told the Irish Independent that the hype means pre-orders are above well average.

Amazon has also said that the book has become its most pre-ordered title since the final instalment of the Harry Potter series.

Tom Hoban of Hodges Figgis on Dawson Street said the bookshop had received 360 pre-orders for 'Go Set A Watchman' - a high figure for one store.

Hodges Figgis's parent company, Waterstones, says that UK and Ireland presales of 'Watchman' are currently at around 19,000. The bookseller initially set a maximum target of 20,000 presales.

Manager of Chapters Bookstore John Gannon said that pre-sales for its Parnell Street store had exceeded expectations.

And Eason's Head Book Buyer Stephen Boylan said that sales of 'To Kill A Mockingbird' surged by 98pc following the announcement of the new novel, and went up by a further 96pc in the past two weeks.

Demand

"We've received a number of pre-sale requests," he said. "The Harper Lee book is our single biggest initial order of the year to date."

Vinny Browne of Charlie Byrne's Bookshop in Galway, called 'Go Set A Watchman' a "phenomenon".

"We have a lot of advance orders," he said, adding that pre-orders exceeded the normal demand.

"There are other phenomena driven by TV. This is different," he said.

The reclusive author wrote 'Go Set A Watchman' in the 1950s - before the release of the Pulitzer Prize-winning 'To Kill A Mockingbird'.

However, the manuscript was only recently rediscovered by Lee's lawyer, who found it in a safety deposit box.

The book tells the story of Jean Louise Finch, known as Scout in 'To Kill A Mockingbird'.

There was controversy as to whether Lee was well enough to give her consent to publish the book. But she recently released a statement, saying: "I'm alive and kicking and happy as hell with the reactions to Watchman."

Irish Independent

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