In 1957, when she was 31 years old, Harper Lee submitted her first attempt at a novel to the publisher J.B. Lippincott.
Titled ‘Go Set a Watchman,’ it was set in the ’50s and opened with a woman named Jean Louise Finch returning home to Alabama. Ms. Lee’s editor found the story lacking but, seizing on flashback scenes, suggested that she write instead about her protagonist as a young girl. The result was a Pulitzer Prize-winning classic: ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’
‘Go Set a Watchman’ will be published on Tuesday. It has undergone very little editing. “It was made clear to us that Harper Lee wanted it published as it was,” Jonathan Burnham, publisher of HarperCollins’s Harper imprint, said in a statement. “We gave the book a very light copy edit.”
The first chapter of ‘Go Set a Watchman’ introduces Ms. Lee’s beloved character, Scout, as a sexually liberated woman in her twenties, traveling from New York to Alabama to visit her ailing father and weigh a marriage proposal from a childhood friend. It also includes a bombshell about Scout’s brother.
Here it is!
Since Atlanta, she had looked out the dining-car window with a delight almost physical. Over her breakfast coffee, she watched the last of Georgia’s hills recede and the red earth appear, and with it tin-roofed houses set in the middle of swept yards, and in the yards the inevitable verbena grew, surrounded by whitewashed tires. She grinned when she saw her first TV antenna atop an unpainted Negro house; as they multiplied, her joy rose.
Jean Louise Finch always made this journey by air, but she decided to go by train from New York to Maycomb Junction on her fifth annual trip home. For one thing, she had the life scared out of her the last time she was on a plane: the pilot elected to fly through a tornado. For another thing, flying home meant her father rising at three in the morning, driving a hundred miles to meet her in Mobile, and doing a full day’s work afterwards: he was seventy-two now and this was no longer fair.
She was glad she had decided to go by train. Trains had changed since her childhood, and the novelty of the experience amused her: a fat genie of a porter materialized when she pressed a button on a wall; at her bidding a stainless steel washbasin popped out of another wall, and there was a john one could prop one’s feet on. She resolved not to be intimidated by several messages stenciled around her compartment—a roomette, they called it—but when she went to bed the night before, she succeeded in folding herself up into the wall because she had ignored an injunction to PULL THIS LEVER DOWN OVER BRACKETS, a situation remedied by the porter to her embarrassment, as her habit was to sleep only in pajama tops.
Click here for the rest of first chapter.