In Brief

Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, dies aged 89

'Literary Garbo' lived out her final years in Monroeville, Alabama, close to the house where she spent her childhood

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Harper Lee, the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel To Kill a Mockingbird, has died at the age of 89.

She had lived for several years in a nursing home close to the house where she grew up in Monroeville, Alabama, after suffering a stroke in 2007.

News of her death was first reported by her local newspaper and later confirmed by the mayor's office in Monroeville.

"She was a guardedly private person, respected and protected by residents of her town, rarely giving interviews," says the BBC.

She was born Nelle Harper Lee on 28 April 1926, the youngest child of lawyer Amasa Coleman Lee and his wife Frances Cunningham Finch.

To Kill a Mockingbird, her highly acclaimed morality tale about racial tensions in the US Deep South, was published in 1961 and quickly became one of the most widely read texts of the 20th century. It still features on school reading lists today.

The follow-up, Go Set a Watchman, featuring a grown-up version of Mockingbird's heroine Scout, was released last year after being "lost" for decades. It was originally written in 1957 but had been rejected by a publisher, who encouraged her to rewrite the story from a child's perspective. Its discovery was hailed as the literary sensation of the decade

Not one for the limelight, Lee gained a reputation "as a literary Garbo, a recluse whose public appearances to accept an award or an honorary degree counted as important news simply because of their rarity", New York Times says. She rarely spoke on such occasions, other than to say a brief thank you, it adds.

In one rare radio interview in 1964, Lee spoke about her unexpected success with Mockingbird.

"I was hoping for a quick and merciful death at the hands of the reviewers, but at the same time I sort of hoped someone would like it well enough to give me encouragement." Instead, she said, she got "rather a whole lot and in some ways this was just about as frightening as the quick, merciful death I'd expected".

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