After 60 years, Harper Lee’s hotly anticipated companion novel to “To Kill a Mockingbird” has finally reached the public.
The first chapter of “Go Set A Watchman” has been published by The Guardian and boasts the instantly recognisable low-key style of story-telling that was emblematic of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
Warning: There are spoilers ahead. Stop reading now if you want to enjoy the book without ruining the surprises.
The story opens with protagonist Jean Louise Finch travelling home from Georgia to Maycomb, a small town not far from Mobile, Alabama.
The opening chapter delves into Finch’s two biggest dilemmas, how she’ll cope with her father’s worsening health and how to handle the romantic situation between her and one of her childhood friends.
Here’s a highlight from the first chapter:
Jean Louise Finch disembarks from the train expecting to be to be greeted by her father, Atticus. Instead she is greeted by lifelong friend and love interest, Henry Clinton, who has bad news about her father:
Louise grinned back and waited impatiently for the porter to put the yellow step in place. He handed her down and she gave him the two bills.
Her father was not waiting for her.
She looked up the track toward the station and saw a tall man standing on the tiny platform. He jumped down and ran to meet her.
He grabbed her in a bear hug, put her from him, kissed her hard on the mouth, then kissed her gently. “Not here, Hank,” she murmured, much pleased.
“Hush, girl,” he said, holding her face in place. “I’ll kiss you on the courthouse steps if I want to.”
The possessor of the right to kiss her on the courthouse steps was Henry Clinton, her lifelong friend, her brother’s comrade, and if he kept on kissing her like that, her husband. Love whom you will but marry your own kind was a dictum amounting to instinct within her. Henry Clinton was Jean Louise’s own kind, and now she did not consider the dictum particularly harsh.
They walked arm-in-arm down the track to collect her suitcase. “How’s Atticus?” she said.
“His hands and shoulders are giving him fits today.”
“He can’t drive when they’re like that, can he?”
Henry closed the fingers of his right hand halfway and said, “He can’t close them any more than this. Miss Alexandra has to tie his shoes and button his shirts when they’re like that. He can’t even hold a razor.”
Jean Louise shook her head. She was too old to rail against the inequity of it, but too young to accept her father’s crippling disease without putting up some kind of fight. “Isn’t there anything they can do?”
“You know there isn’t,” Henry said. “He takes seventy grains of aspirin a day and that’s all.”
Henry picked up her heavy suitcase, and they walked back toward the car. She wondered how she would behave when her time came to hurt day in and day out. Hardly like Atticus: if you asked him how he was feeling he would tell you, but he never complained; his disposition remained the same, so in order to find out how he was feeling, you had to ask him.
You can read the full first chapter on The Guardian.
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