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Pulitzer Prize winner and 'To Kill A Mockingbird' author Harper Lee smiles before receiving the 2007 Presidential Medal of Freedom in the East Room of the White House November 5, 2007 in Washington, DC. Chip Somodevilla—Getty Images

Read TIME's Original Review of To Kill a Mockingbird

Feb 03, 2015

More than half a century has passed since TIME reviewed Harper Lee's first and only novel, To Kill a Mockingbird — but this summer TIME may have a second opportunity to review this celebrated and reclusive author's work, when the publishing house Harper releases her recently discovered second novel, Go Set a Watchman. The publisher announced on Tuesday that the novel — which was actually written before Mockingbird — will be available on July 14.

TIME's first review of To Kill a Mockingbird appeared in an Aug. 1, 1960 edition of the magazine, under the headline, "About Life & Little Girls." While the reviewer doesn't hold back on the praise, perhaps no one at the time could have anticipated the sensation the book would become.

Here is TIME's original review, in full:

Clearly, Scout Finch is no ordinary five-year-old girl—and not only because she amuses herself by reading the financial columns of the Mobile Register, but because her nine-year-old brother Jem allows her to tag along when he and Dill Harris try to make Boo Radley come out.

Boo is the Radley son who has not shown his face outside the creaky old family house for 30 years and more, probably because he has "shy ways," but possibly —an explanation the children much prefer—because his relatives have chained him to his bed. Dill has the notion that Boo might be lured out if a trail of lemon drops were made to lead away from his doorstep. Scout and Jem try a midnight invasion instead, and this stirs up so much commotion that Jem loses his pants skittering back under the fence.

Scout and her brother live in Maycomb, Alabama, where every family that amounts to anything has a streak—a peculiar streak, or a morbid streak, or one involving a little ladylike tippling at Lydia Pinkham bottles filled with gin. The Finch family streak is a good deal more serious —it is an overpowering disposition toward sanity. This is the flaw that makes Jem interrupt the boasting of a lineage-proud dowager to ask "Is this the Cousin Joshua who was locked up for so long?" And it is what compels Lawyer Atticus Finch, the children's father, to defend a Negro who is charged with raping a white woman. The rape trial, Jem's helling, and even Boo Radley are deeply involved in the irregular and very effective education of Scout Finch. By the time she ends her first-person account at the age of nine, she has learned that people must be judged, but only slowly and thoughtfully.

Author Lee , 34, an Alabaman, has written her first novel with all of the tactile brilliance and none of the preciosity generally supposed to be standard swamp-warfare issue for Southern writers. The novel is an account of an awakening to good and evil, and a faint catechistic flavor may have been inevitable. But it is faint indeed; Novelist Lee 's prose has an edge that cuts through cant, and she teaches the reader an astonishing number of useful truths about little girls and about Southern life. (A notable one: "Naming people after Confederate generals makes slow steady drinkers.") All in all, Scout Finch is fiction's most appealing child since Carson McCullers' Frankie got left behind at the wedding.

See the page as it originally appeared, here in the TIME Vault

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