SBS News

By Naomi Selvaratnam

It's an exciting day for Deirdre Sparrius.

She has collected her pre-ordered copy of Go Set a Watchman, the highly anticipated second novel from Harper Lee.

"It captures all the dreadful racism and injustices that were done to people and it's an exciting story," she said.

She was one of the many people collecting their copy from Sydney bookstore, Gleebooks.

Co-owner David Gaunt said customers had queued outside the store before the book's release.

"We've had probably 10 times as many pre-orders for a book like this than we would normally get,” he said.

To Kill a Mockingbird, which was made famous by the Oscar-winning film of the same name, tells of racism and injustice in the American South.

It's a coming of age story about six-year-old Scout Finch.

Scout's father, Atticus — who defends an African American man wrongly-accused of rape in the book — has gone on to become a beacon for social justice, but the sequel reveals a very different side to the fictional lawyer.

Literary Editor at The Australian, Stephen Romei, said the book provides a more realistic portrayal of the Atticus first idolised by his daughter in the original.

"Atticus was following the long-held principle of keeping your friends close, but keeping your potential enemies closer,” he said.

“He went to the meeting to see the men behind the masks."

Whether this latest novel will be well received still remains uncertain.

Rodney Taveira from the United States Studies Centre at Sydney University said Harper Lee's latest book could tarnish the reputation of To Kill a Mockingbird, and of the author herself.

"It could be potentially very damaging for her reputation as this almost saintly figure who gave us this other saintly figure in Atticus Finch,” he said.

But Romei said Go Set a Watchman may upstage its predecessor.

"I think it's more complete and more satisfying than To Kill a Mockingbird, which I know will get me tarred and feathered in some quarters, but it's only an opinion," he said.

"Others will read Go Set a Watchman and have a different view. But as Atticus Finch would be the first to say, we're all entitled to our own opinions."

This article was originally published at SBS News