April 27, 2015
Reese Witherspoon to narrate Harper Lee audiobook
by Nick Davies
After a long controversy over the mental stability of author Harper Lee, and whether she was competent enough to approve the publication of the long-awaited follow-up to her seminal To Kill a Mockingbird, HarperCollins is going ahead with the publication of the book this summer. And now, Alexandra Alter reports for the New York Times, the publisher has announced that Reese Witherspoon will be the voice of the Go Set a Watchman audiobook.
Earlier this month, the Alabama Securities Commission closed its investigation into Lee’s well-being, and since then her publisher has gone ahead with its promotion for the book, announcing an enormous print run of two million copies, releasing the cover art, and naming Witherspoon as the official voice of the novel. Sean McManus, senior director at HarperAudio says in a press statement, “The publication of Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman is the literary event of the year, and Reese Witherspoon’s extraordinary talent and southern roots make her the perfect narrator” (Witherspoon was born in New Orleans and spent part of her childhood in Nashville).
While Go Set a Watchman isn’t exactly a sequel—Lee wrote it before starting on To Kill a Mockingbird—it does involve the same setting and characters, including older versions of Atticus and Scout Finch. Witherspoon will be following in the footsteps of fellow Oscar winner Sissy Spacek, who reads the audiobook version of To Kill a Mockingbird. She tells the press that she’s excited for the opportunity, having drawn a great deal of inspiration from Lee’s work.
“As a Southerner,” Witherspoon says, “it is an honor and privilege to give voice to the Southern characters who inspired my childhood love of reading, Scout and Atticus Finch. I am eager for readers to be transported to a pivotal time in American history in the manner that only Harper Lee’s gorgeous prose can deliver.”
Go Set a Watchman will publish on July 14.
Nick Davies is a publicist at Melville House.