The First Chapter of Harper Lee's New Book Is Here

It includes a 'bombshell' about Jem
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jul 10, 2015 7:40 AM CDT
Harper Lee's first book since "To Kill a Mockingbird" is set to be released on July 14.   (AP Photo/Rob Carr, File)
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(Newser) – Days before the official release of Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman—a book surrounded by controversy—the Wall Street Journal has gotten a look at the first chapter. It begins with Jean Louise Finch, aka Scout and now in her twenties, having "turned from an overalled, fractious, gun-slinging creature into a reasonable facsimile of a human being." She's heading from New York to Maycomb, Ala., to see her ailing father Atticus. There, she must choose between marriage or "the stony path of spinsterhood." Paragraphs into the chapter, fans will learn what Jennifer Maloney of the Journal terms a "bombshell" about Scout's brother, Jem. We won't spoil it, but for those who take a look and are displeased, the Telegraph reminds us the book "was written before Lee's first publication—and if you were reading the passage at the time it was originally written, you would have no knowledge of Jem's character."

Lee's publisher says the author wanted the book published just as it was found, so it only underwent a light copy edit. "What is so fine about this book is that it isn’t polished by any editor, but it absolutely comes from the heart," Lee’s literary agent tell the Guardian. He adds Lee was given copies of the book last week and was "completely shocked" to learn 2 million copies would be printed in the first US run; the book is Amazon's best-selling pre-order title ever. Otherwise, "she was in a good mood," he says. At the Guardian, Alison Flood writes that Go Set a Watchman "reveals a witty, dry voice immediately recognizable as that of the To Kill a Mockingbird author." The book hits shelves on Tuesday. Until then, the entire first chapter is available here. You can also listen to a portion of the audiobook, read by Reese Witherspoon, here.

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