Monthly Archives: October 2011

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee


Most people are forced to read this book at school which usually kills any love a reader could normally feel for a book.  The study in detail often destroys the delicate illusion that is required to immerse oneself in a story.  But those I’ve spoken to, in regards to Mockingbird, only remember it fondly and can still quote whole sections twenty years later.  My sister, a confessed non-reader, was the one who recommended it to me as her one of her all time favourite stories!

Yes, I lived a deprived childhood without Harper Lee’s influence which is a shame.  Adults and children see things differently; it would have been good to contrast the experiences.  Still, my virgin dip into To Kill a Mockingbird was not a disappointment. 

To Kill a Mockingbird is a simple story.  There are no multiple parallel plots (unless you count the Boo Radley pestering as a separate plot), no edgy, gritty pseudo-realism.  This is the story of a town at a difficult time seen through the lives of a small family.  It’s real; most people live their lives grit free, at least with the help of a vacuum cleaner.  They only edges they worry about are on the sharp kitchen knives.  The Finches are us, just trying to make sense in a world that has no sense at all.

I was scanning through reviews on Good Reads and was surprised that one bad review Atticus was too good to be true, the perfect father.  Though Atticus is a very moral man who contrasts well against the prejudice and hypocrisy of the town, he is not a good father to his daughter, but he tries his best.  Don’t all parents. 

Harper Lee’s writing is delicate only giving the briefest of descriptions and leaving the rest up to the reader to fill in.  Characterisation is perfect with a good contrast shown between the childish Scout, her maturing brother, Jem and the adult Atticus.  Jem gets adult stuff that flies over the head of Scout, Scout is annoyed when Jem doesn’t enjoy their games anymore.  Atticus tries to steer a course that he and his family can live with through adult prejudices, racial and moral.  This books is so quotable (I have bookmarks sticking out of mine at all the most notable) words are used skillfully, not a wasted one.  As a result language has to be a key doorway for this book. 

Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.

What I love most about this story is that it speaks to so many people regardless of age or class or race. Again, check out the reviews on Good Reads you’ll see reviews from all over the world in as many languages as this book has been printed in.  It shows what scouts says is true, “Folks is folks”.  If it doesn’t speak to you, you are sadly in a minority and I’d suggest that this book may be speaking to you the loudest…and you don’t like what it has to say.