The first chapter of Harper Lee’s highly anticipated second novel, Go Set A Watchman, is now available to read online. Debuting in the Wall Street Journal and the Guardian, the first chapter was released Friday, four days before the book is due to hit shelves on July 14.
Before the first excerpt was published readers knew the basics: Watchman would tell the story of Scout (Jean Louise Finch) as a grown woman and her journey to see her ailing father Atticus Finch, who is now 72, in Maycomb, Alabama. It’s set 20 years after To Kill A Mockingbird, but Lee had written it before, in the mid-’50s.
Chapter 1 now reveals that — spoiler! — Jean Louise’s older brother had died. While describing Jean Louise’s new love interest Henry Clinton, Lee makes note that he looks to Atticus as a father figure. She refers to the time when Jean Louise’s brother (we’re made to believe she speaks of Jem, who fans will remember from Mockingbird) “dropped dead in his tracks,” an event which forced Atticus to find a successor, perhaps Clinton. “It was natural for him to engage Henry, and in due course Henry became Atticus’s legman, his eyes, and his hands,” Lee writes.
According to HarperCollins, Lee’s second book has already garnered the most pre-orders in the company’s history, and it’s the most pre-ordered print book on Amazon since the final Harry Potter novel. Anticipation has been building for the release since it was announced in February, and booksellers around the country have been gearing up for its debut with organized celebrations, read-a-thons and screenings of the film.