Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman is shaping up to become Waterstones’ biggest ever pre-ordered book, beating Harry Potter and EL James’ Grey.
Pre-orders for the novel, which was written five years before To Kill a Mockingbird and rediscovered by Lee’s lawyer 50 years later, are currently three times more than the latest Fifty Shades instalment released last month.
On Amazon, the novel is currently second in the bestsellers’ list based on pre-orders alone, with three days to go until its release.
Go Set A Watchman is the online retailers’ most popular pre-ordered title since the final Harry Potter book, The Deathly Hallows.
Neither retailer could give any figures on the pre-orders, but publisher HarperCollins said it had ordered a print run of 2 million in the US.
Hundreds of book fans are expected to queue up across the country for the midnight release of Lee’s second novel on Monday 14 July.
James Daunt, managing director of Waterstone’s, described Go Set A Watchman as “the most exciting book to be published in the history of my book-selling career.”
“We all knew about Harry Potter, we knew it was going to come out, but this is really something extraordinary. And of course it is a much broader demographic. To Kill A Mockingbird is read by everybody, my 11-year-old daughter loves it and so does my grandmother,” he said.
He added that anticipation surrounding the book was so high because it came “from the same creative moment” as Lee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.
“I think if it had been the geriatric writer with the ghost-writer holding the quill rewriting the sequel it would be a different story,” he said.
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The first chapter of Go Set A Watchman was published on the Guardian and The Wall Street Journal on Friday morning, introducing readers to Scout at the age of 26 travelling home to Alabama from New York by train.
The release of the novel has been surrounded by controversy as to whether Lee was well enough to give consent for the book to be published.
It was thought the 88-year-old novelist may have been pressured into publishing the novel after it emerged her late sister Alice had written in 2011 that Lee “can’t hear and will sign anything you put before her by anyone in whom she has confidence.”
In a statement responding to the concerns, Lee said: “I’m alive and kicking and happy as hell with the reactions to Watchman.”
Go Set A Watchman by Harper Lee is published on 14 July by William Heinemann at £18.99.