Fans of “To Kill a Mockingbird” will have read about three-quarters of the first chapter of Harper Lee’s hotly anticipated second novel before their stomachs drop.
We’re not going to reveal the stunning plot development right here, because everybody hates spoilers, right? But there will be some pretty big hints about what it involves, so read on at your own risk.
Reactions swiftly followed on social media, with many readers flabbergasted by the big reveal concerning Jem Finch, a central character in “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
“Wow, Harper Lee just broke my heart this morning with one sentence,” tweeted book seller Joe Whittington.
The start of “Go Set a Watchman” picks up the story of Jean Louise “Scout” Finch, the young girl who narrates her adventures in the rural South in “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
But now she’s a grown woman in the 1950s, riding a train from New York back to her childhood home of Maycomb, Alabama, the setting for “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
This time, Lee tells the story in the third person, not in Scout’s voice.
The first chapter is still rich with the author’s wry observations about human nature, with turns of phrase like, “If you did not want much, there was plenty.”
Scout has become Jean Louise, transforming from “an overalled, fractious, gun-slinging creature into a reasonable facsimile of a human being.”
Besides the gut-punch revelation about her older brother, Jem, we also learn about a romantic interest for Jean Louise and health problems faced by their aging father, Atticus.
There’s even an eyebrow-raising detail about what Jean Louise likes to wear in bed.
But the first chapter didn’t persuade everyone that the novel, which is reportedly the most pre-ordered book since the Harry Potter series, will live up to the hype.
One Twitter user said she found the excerpt “problematic,” another was unimpressed with its description of Jean Louise, a former tomboy, as “easy to look at.”