It is with heavy hearts that the literary community and booklovers worldwide say goodbye to Harper Lee, who died today at the age of 89.
Author of the unforgettable classic To Kill a Mockingbird, Lee was born in Monroeville, Alabama, on 28 April 1926. She studied at the University of Alabama, and later left law school to pursue a career in writing, moving to New York in 1949.
With the support of close friends, Harper was able to devote her time to her craft, and completed her soon-to-be classic in 1959. Published as the Civil Rights Movement was gaining momentum, To Kill a Mockingbird became an almost instant bestseller. Despite its gentle tone, the novel exposed the darkness underpinning the gentility of a Southern community forced to face the reality of racial hatred. Characters like Atticus Finch and Boo Radley remain vivid in the cultural imagination.
Harper Lee received many awards for her work, including the Pulitzer Prize in 1961. She accepted a post on the National Council of the Arts in the United States, but largely retired from public life in the 1970s. It was believed that Lee had only ever written one book but in 2015 Go Set a Watchman, her second novel, was published. Although a sequel, it was written before To Kill a Mockingbird.
Harper Lee will be missed by lovers of literature around the world.