Jem is gone (sorry!), Scout is grown and now known as "Jean Louise," Atticus is ailing with rheumatoid arthritis and stoically taking "seventy grams of aspirin a day, and that's all."
The first chapter of Harper Lee's "Go Set a Watchman" was published today on the Websites of the Wall Street Journal and the Guardian of London. (Bonus: both sites have audio of Reese Witherspoon reading the chapter.)
It is written not in first person, as "To Kill a Mockingbird" was, but in third person, following Jean Louise as she rides the train from New York to Alabama ("The Chattahoochee is wide, flat and muddy. It was low today; a yellow sandbar had reduced its flow to a trickle.")
Readers meet Jean Louise's now-dead cousin Joshua, a showy man who wore an Inverness cape and custom-made boots and wrote poetry; he looked, she thinks, "like a ratty Algernon Swinburne."
And readers meet one Henry Clinton, who is waiting for Jean Louise's train and who sweeps her in his arms and kisses her on the mouth. Whoa! Scout!
Some lovely writing in this chapter, descriptions of the landscape and brief, sharp depictions of people. (She "sometimes thought she detected an unmistakably profane glint in Atticus Finch's eyes, or was it merely the light hitting his glasses? She never knew.") Some comedy. (Jean Louise accidentally folds herself up in the train's Murphy bed.) A bit of raciness. (Jean Louise's eyebrows flickered. "Henry," she said primly. "I'll have an affair with you but I won't marry you.") Some inevitable clunkiness. (The tenses move back and forth between past and present for no apparent reason, and Jean Louise is always grinning. The stilted exchange between Henry and Jean Louise made me twitchy.)
But will I read more? Yeah, I'll read more.
Twitter results are more positive than negative: "Just read the first chap and now my heart is hurting." "Oh, Jem. Say it isn't so." "This is utterly, utterly glorious." But also: "Have a bad feeling that #ToKillAMockingbird is to @starwars as #GoSetAWatchman is to The Phantom Menace."
Books go on sale on Tuesday.