Wednesday, October 4, 2017

To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee

Sometimes you hear of a book, and it automatically associates with a certain season in your mind. To Kill a Mockingbird (TKAM) always associated with Autumn for me. I'd never read it, but when a friend loaned me her copy (which she had already taken care of the language in) I was really glad to explore it for the first time.

TKAM got onto my to-read list after I heard of Go Set a Watchman, the controversial sequel to Lee's first novel. Amidst a swirl of debate about the suitability of publishing the book, and whether or not Lee was coherent enough to give mindful consent, I really wanted to discover the original book that inspired so much passionate love and nostalgic remembrance on the part of its readers.

It took a while. Like two years later? But all things come in good time. :)

The Story [description below and book cover above from Goodreads]
The unforgettable novel of a childhood in a sleepy Southern town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it, To Kill A Mockingbird became both an instant bestseller and a critical success when it was first published in 1960. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and was later made into an Academy Award-winning film, also a classic.

Compassionate, dramatic, and deeply moving, To Kill A Mockingbird takes readers to the roots of human behavior - to innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humor and pathos. Now with over 18 million copies in print and translated into forty languages, this regional story by a young Alabama woman claims universal appeal. Harper Lee always considered her book to be a simple love story. Today it is regarded as a masterpiece of American literature.

My Thoughts 
TKAM is a detailed story of heart and childhood. If you loved books that managed to capture the eyes of a child, like Laura Ingalls, you'll like Scout. Scout is sharply perceptive, a classic little sister, and a very good protagonist. There are so many things that ring true to childhood experience--Jem and Scout and Dill's fascination with role-playing their hermit neighbor and bullying each other into playing things they wanted to do. The sibling tussles, the struggles with adults, and the golden adventures are classic. 

Atticus, Scout's father, is a fascinating character study. He's not emotionally demonstrative. The most affection he openly shows is allowing Scout to climb up on his lap every night and read the paper with him. He's not cold, but he's not a man of many words. He doesn't struggle to communicate, and he's not a wounded soul. He's a man of precision, a bookworm, and a man of integrity, and yet he still has warmth to him, and you catch glimpses of his love and care for his children. While I would be nervous talking to him, he seems like a man whom one could have a fascinating conversation with. The moment that shows his character the most keenly is when he walks out of the courthouse and people stand because of the kind of man he is.

It's kind of funny, because when I heard about TKAM, I had absolutely no clue what it was about, and it was totally different than I pictured without actually having a picture in my mind. The seclusive neighbor plot was a surprise, and the only thing I knew for sure was the court case plot.

That court case. I've read two gut-wrenching books on racism this year. I wasn't expecting the grief in TKAM, which Jem really epitomizes when he's processing the unfairness of what's going on. It's something so obvious to us--that all shades of skin are one, equal race, and deserve the same justice in the court systems. That all humankind is infected with sin, no shade of skin more so than another. While the subject matter was tough, as a black man is tried for supposedly raping a white woman, the way the court case is played out is legendary, and none of the information is R-rated. It can be a way to answer children's questions quietly and thoughtfully through the means of Scout's eyes. Even so, I'm glad I didn't read it sooner, and I'm really glad I didn't read it last year when I was in the middle of some emotional upheaval. There are some tough, sobering, adult things in Tom Harmon's trial that were even challenging to read this time around.  

While this book has language (many instances) and a mature central plot, it is a heart-warming, full-blooded story. The colorful personalities, the beauty in its writing, and the sense of memory and home pervading its pages combine to make a story that enriches the lives of those who read it. I wish I could be more eloquent in how I feel about it. Please tell me what you love most about To Kill a Mockingbird in the comments! 

P.S. I originally planned this review for last Friday. Life is getting the better of me, folks! I have books lined up in the queue to review, but some work and life projects are commandeering my time right now--I'll see you next Tuesday for a newsy life update, with more reviews to follow in days to come! 

2 comments:

  1. I am so glad you loved To Kill a Mocking Bird! Such a powerful story and a wonderful book :) <3.

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  2. I love this book. It brings back that sense of golden, dusty childhood summers while simultaneously breaking my heart over our world's injustice. Scout is special; Atticus is special; this book is special.

    But I definitely associate it with summer, not autumn. ;)

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