Book Cover Blurb: “Shoot all the bluejays you want, if you can hit ’em, but remember it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.”
A lawyer’s advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird of Harper Lee‘s classic novel – a black man charged with the rape of a white girl.
Through the young eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores with exuberant humour the irrationality of adult attitudes to race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s.
The conscience of a town steeped in prejudice, violence and hypocrisy is pricked by the stamina of one man’s struggle for justice. But the weight of history will only tolerate so much.
Genre: Literary Fiction
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.”
Although this book has been referred to as a ‘classic’, I’ll confess – I wasn’t looking forward to reading it.
My bias stemmed from the blurb which depicted a storyline that I simply had no real interest in – the setting, period or the genre. I’m more a of a sci-fi/thriller, action packed kind of reader.
Owning the DVD (which I hadn’t yet watched) based on the book, Gregory Peck adorned the cover, playing the lawyer Atticus Finch. The still shot was black and white, dull as dishwater and compounded my fear that it would be a long slog to get through – yet another court-room drama. A silly presupposition of course given that it was published fifty-six years earlier and would have been responsible for many of the copy-cats since.
After a few chapters, the characters and world reeled me in. It was nothing like what I expected, a story told through the eyes of a nine-year old girl. The court-room scenes, although a pivotal piece of the story and it’s theme, actually only takes up a couple of chapters in the book, and was by no means at a plodding pace.
The book, at times, read like a Tom Sawyer, Huck Finn adventure where Scout, Jem and their friend Dill explore the little town, usually in their own heads as they concoct games centring around their reclusive neighbour, Boo Radley.
Set against a backdrop of 1930’s America, steeped in prejudice, it is an insightful narrative of life in a small backwater community and the racial divide at that time.
Spanning a couple of years where the characters each grow in the readers eyes, fighting their own private battles, lawyer and single father Atticus Finch stands out as the voice of reason, a pillar of the community who is tested on many occasions, not least, providing consul for a man who everyone has already marked as guilty – simply because of the colour of his skin.
He’s a wonderfully written character and the struggle at the conclusion confirms his moral code and ethics despite his personal feelings.
Strangely enough, I read this book while at the same time watching Making a Murderer. Interesting to see the parallels and prejudices people harbour against others just because they occupy a place in the lower rungs of the social ladder.
All in all, it took a little while to get going but I speed read through the second half of this book in a couple of days, keen to follow the characters to the end.
Author: Harper Lee
Other Books Written: Go Set A Watchman
Time to Complete: 4 weeks
Interesting Fact: Harper Lee apparently spent 6 to 12 hours each day at her desk writing the story , typically only creating one page of text. It was sent to 10 publishers who all initially rejected it.
Rating: 8.5 /10
Next Book: Catch-22, Joseph Heller
Part of the BBC Big Read 100 List