Although the release of Go Set a Watchman was embargoed until the official publication date of July 14, a number of media outlets, including the New York Times, The Washington Post and The Guardian managed to secure copies.
The major reveal of their reviews has been that the hero of To Kill a Mockingbird, Atticus Finch, a character who became a symbol in the fight against racial inequality, is shown in Watchman to be a racist.
In her review for the Times, Michiko Kakutani writes that in Mockingbird, "Atticus praised American courts as 'the great levelers,' dedicated to the proposition that 'all men are created equal.' In Watchman, set in the 1950s in the era of the Brown v. Board of Education decision, he denounces the Supreme Court, says he wants his home state 'to be left alone to keep house without advice from the N.A.A.C.P.' and describes N.A.A.C.P.-paid lawyers as 'standing around like buzzards.'"
As the now-grown Scout, who idolized her father in Lee's first book, returns to her hometown of Maycomb, Ala., from New York City, she grapples "with her dismaying realization that Atticus and her longtime boyfriend, Henry Clinton, both have abhorrent views on race and segregation," according to the review.
In its review, the Washington Post takes further note of the transformation of the noble Atticus readers know from Mockingbird. "He joined the Ku Klux Klan and attended one meeting and is now a board member in one of the newly formed Citizens’ Councils springing up in communities throughout the South to oppose desegregation, in 'protest to the Court . . . a sort of warning to the Negroes for them not to be in such a hurry.'"
The revelation, while deeply disappointing to some Mockingbird fans, has resulted in more public debate about the book, and could potentially lead to higher sales for the most-hyped book since the last Harry Potter.
NOTE: This article has been revised from its original version, to reflect additional comments about Go Set a Watchman.