There is much to be said of all the speculation and allegations about how exactly the long-lost manuscript of “Go Set a Watchman” was discovered and whether author Harper Lee ever wanted it to be published in the first place.
Let’s set those concerns aside for now and focus on the story itself.
Whether you consider “Watchman” a sequel to “To Kill a Mockingbird” or its first draft, its events chronologically take place after “Mockingbird,” and they add dimension, depth and a necessary disillusionment to a story that long has been part of American literary (and cinematic) canon.
In “Watchman,” Jean Louise “Scout” Finch, the scrappy child protagonist of “Mockingbird,” has grown into an independent woman of 26 who lives and works in New York but spends two weeks every year in her hometown of Maycomb, Ala. Maycomb seems like the same sleepy, Southern town we all know from Lee’s 1960 classic, but Scout’s father, Atticus, is older now and sometimes crippled by rheumatoid arthritis, and the former tomboy has a sort-of boyfriend/sort-of fiance in her lifelong friend Hank Clinton (who is not in “Mockingbird”).
Scout takes the comfortable sameness of Maycomb and its residents for granted, but the illusion is shattered one afternoon when she discovers a citizens’ council meeting in which the town’s men are discussing how they can combat integration and the government’s newfound enforcement of black civil rights. To Scout’s horror, she sees Atticus and Hank among the members, calmly listening as one speaker goes on a white-supremacist, N-word-ridden tirade.