The first chapter of Harper Lee's highly anticipated Go Set a Watchman was published early this morning by the Wall Street Journal.
(This article has been updated with new developments.)
The story opens with Jean Louise, the grown-up Scout, returning to Maycomb by train from New York to visit her father Atticus, who is debilitated by rheumatoid arthritis. The chapter is heavy on exposition, touching on, among other things, a cousin who ended up in a state institution for firing a gun; description of the Chattahoochee river and the countryside; the history of Colonel Mason Maycomb, for whom the town and county of Maycomb was named; and a joke train porters play on young ladies by stopping the train past the station.
There's also a surprising development regarding Scout's brother.
The book, which releases on Tuesday, has been the subject of controversy after questions about whether Lee was mentally fit to agree to its publication.
Early critical reactions to the first chapter of the novel are uneven. Lynda Hawryluk at CNN championed the work, saying it features "long sentences beautifully rendered and evoking a world long lost to history, but welcoming all the same." But in a review for The Telegraph, bearing the headline 'Would it have been kinder not to publish Harper Lee's Go Set a Watchman?', Mick Brown writes: "there is a reason [this book] was not published in the first place." He continues: "What immediately strikes you reading this first chapter is its utterly conventional voice, its lack of spark and intimacy."
Reactions on social media were also varied, ranging from praise to criticism to lightheartedness; a selection of Twitter responses are below.
Well, the reference to "Negro houses" in the 1st chapter of GO SET A WATCHMAN is a little sigh-making.— Amanda Nelson (@ImAmandaNelson) July 10, 2015
Was NOT expecting the first chapter of GO SET A WATCHMAN to be told from Christian Grey's point of view.— Jason Pinter (@jasonpinter) July 10, 2015
Well chapter one is just wonderful. Now how do I get through next 72 hours waiting for rest of Go Set A Watchman? http://t.co/9UIli1CHVx— Stuart Millar (@stuartmillar159) July 10, 2015
Need the German word for being curious about "Go Set a Watchman" but not curious enough to read it in case it's actually bad.— Matt Pearce (@mattdpearce) July 10, 2015
EXCLUSIVE: First review of first word in first chapter of GO SET A WATCHMAN: "In." This deceptively common word suggests inviting coziness.— Adam Sternbergh (@sternbergh) July 10, 2015
Correction: Due to an editing error, a previous version of this article misstated the state in which the fictional location of Maycomb is located in.