Harper Lee drops a bombshell in "Go Set a Watchman" first chapter and people are losing their minds

The Guardian and the Wall Street Journal published the first chapter today

By Erin Keane

Chief Content Officer

Published July 10, 2015 12:16PM (EDT)

Harper Lee       (AP/Penny Weaver)
Harper Lee (AP/Penny Weaver)

Fans of Harper Lee's "To Kill a Mockingbird" are getting their first looks at Lee's long-awaited, controversy-swirled second novel, "Go Set a Watchman" today. The Wall Street Journal and The Guardian have published the first chapter of the novel set in Maycomb, Alabama, 20 years after the events of the first book as the Civil Rights movement grows (The Guardian's features outstanding narration by Reese Witherspoon, too). Jean Louise Finch — Scout to her father Atticus and legions of fans — returns home to Maycomb from New York and, according to publisher Harper Collins, is “forced to grapple with issues both personal and political as she tries to understand her father’s attitude toward society, and her own feelings about the place where she was born and spent her childhood.”

The events surrounding the discovery and publishing of the decades-old manuscript have been shrouded in suspicions of scandal, including whispers of potential elder abuse, but it's clear that the book is one of the major literary events of the decade. And in the first chapter alone, Lee reshuffles fans' expectations of what Jean Louise — and they — are coming home to Maycomb to reckon with.

Major spoilers ahead — seriously, stop reading now if you want to find out for yourself:

[embedtweet id=619472781152002048]

No, really — we warned you:

[embedtweet id=619474217881481216]

Okay, that was a false alarm. But for real, people are not taking the revelations of the first chapter well:

[embedtweet id=619469650259259392]

[embedtweet id=619434279525724160]

[embedtweet id=619473933188866048]

Well, one thing is actually pretty clear:

[embedtweet id=619471030621487104]

So, aside from the giant bombshell Lee drops in the first chapter, how's the actual writing? Some fans aren't convinced yet:

[embedtweet id=619469636048932865]

[embedtweet id=619472518278049793]

And some are still worried that none of this is in line with Lee's wishes for her work:

[embedtweet id=619468471726948352]

But there are some great lines in the first chapter:

[embedtweet id=619472445121163264]

[embedtweet id=619469527072571392]

And isn't it nice to have a Major Literary Event these days be actually, you know ...both major and literary?

[embedtweet id=619479147023343616]

If you don't have time to read this morning, here's the concise recap:

[embedtweet id=619399342454099968]

The book is out July 14.

By Erin Keane

Erin Keane is Salon's Chief Content Officer. She is also on faculty at the Naslund-Mann Graduate School of Writing at Spalding University and her memoir in essays, "Runaway: Notes on the Myths That Made Me," was named one of NPR's Books We Loved In 2022.

MORE FROM Erin Keane

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Books Go Set A Watchman Harper Lee To Kill A Mockingbird