on 6 December 2006
Before I start this review I want to say that I think To Kill a Mockingbird is a brilliant novel and it easily gets five stars. This review is of this book specifically. I happen to have both this edition and an older version printed in the 70s, and I'm afraid they seem to have strangely edited it. A couple of bits are cut out for no apparant reason - pages 191 and 280 - and I really can't fathom why they did it. The old version is far better. Footlights is changed to floodlights, another really weird and miniscule change which I know doesn't make any difference whatsoever, but why the hell did they change it in the first place? There are loads of misprints also, which don't appear in the older version. I know that normal people (unlike me) won't care, but I'd really advise you to buy a different edition if you can find one, as the changes on 191 and 280 are quite major, and neither of the changes are improvements. I want to repeat that I think the book itself is brilliant and deserves five stars, but get a different edition.
on 17 March 2003
I must have read this story at least five times in the two or so years since I first picked up a copy, sometimes returning right back to the start after closing the book. I only wish I could remain immersed in Harper Lee's bygone age and beautifully crafted characters, and not have to reach that last page.
The main thread of 'To Kill A Mockingbird' is the trial of a black man, the symbolic 'mockingbird' of the title, who is accused of raping a white woman, but I much prefer the subtext of a widower father struggling to raise his children with the correct values in a deeply prejudiced society. The story is told through the eyes of the eight year old daughter, 'Scout', which at once paints a more honest picture of events whilst presenting a biased opinion of the central adult protagonist. Whether or not Scout is blinded by love for her father, Atticus Finch is probably one of the most heroic characters in fiction, and a role model for fathers everywhere. Although the trial itself is a tense moment in the story, and educational from a historical point of view, it is the Finch family dynamic that has made me so attached to this story. The first part of the book, when the children are younger and still relatively blind to the world that surrounds them, provides the most enjoyable reading.
I don't know whether it is a good or bad thing that Harper Lee has only written this one story, because I doubt 'To Kill A Mockingbird' could be surpassed. Scout's narration presents both a child's world in adult terms, and an adult world from a child's point of view, providing much comic relief amidst the drama and heartfelt emotion.
on 8 August 2007
I first read this book when I was very young, too young to understand it, and then again when I was at school. But this is one of those books that becomes more profound, more accessible and more relevant the more you read it.
On the surface, it is a tale of racial prejudice in the search for justice, but in fact the story goes beyond that. It is about all prejudices, about the importance of walking around in someone else's shoes in order to truly understand them. Jem and Scout are delightfully child-like, and the effect of a hindsight narrative only adds to the many layers to be found here. Atticus Finch is the man to beat all men - he is the ideal father, the ideal man. He stands for justice, for righteousness and for "fighting back", even when you know you have lost. He is the ideal against which all men should be measured.
This is the most brilliant story of one community's injustice in small-town America, the consequences of which resonate throughout society at large. There has never been (and can never be) another "To Kill a Mockingbird", and the most amazing thing about this novel is that it can be read, re-read and read again generation after generation, and its magic only ever increases. A must-have in your collection!
on 22 September 2010
As an avid reader, with a very catholic taste in books, this novel has always been a huge favourite of mine. I first read it as a teenager, and loved it without really fully understanding it's depth.
The storyline is both simple and at the same time complex, and I have come back to it several times over the years.
I love being read to, even as a very grown up woman!! So when I saw that Sissy Spacek had recorded it, I just had to buy it. And WOW..!!
This lady reads it so well, you are there, living in the Deep South, with Scout and Jem. I have many Audio Books, but I have yet to hear one read SO brilliantly. If you are thinking of perhaps buying it, I urge you to do so, you will have hours of pleasure to look forward to.
Harper Lee was encouraged to write some of her childhood memories. What in the beginning seems like the story of three childhood friends in depression era Macomb, Alabama, turns out to be packed with insights to the makeup of human kind.
This story is intriguing on many levels from the history of the area to the stereotyping of people. Most of all every turn was a surprise as told in the first person from the view of Scout Finch. And instead of telling the story in a six year old vocabulary she uses an exceptionally large repertoire to describe the people and events. This story is not as slow passed as one may guess from first glance as every remark and every action will be needed for a future action.
A major controversial part of the story is the trial of Tom Robinson. Hoverer this is just a catalyst to help Scout understand the nature of people including her father Atticus and you will find that as important as it is it is just a part of the story with other major characters such as Arthur "Boo" Radley.
Even thought it appears that Scout is the recipient of the insights, I believe we the reader is the real recipient.
I can truly say that this book has changed my outlook in life.
To Kill a Mockingbird (Collector's Edition)
Harper Lee (Up Close)
on 19 May 2012
This fine work written in the 1960s and set in the 1930s certainly lives up to its billing as a classic and for me `bucket lister' (a must read before one's own death) and in its depiction of prejudice, loss of innocence and natural justice is as relevant today as it ever was.
Lee creates an incredibly tangible Southern US town, populated by brilliantly drawn, real people. She painstakingly describes the climate, flora and fauna and setting of her native Alabama, drawing the reader in so they can taste the dry, dusty summer air and experience the odour of pecans and scuppernongs.
It is in its depiction of prejudice and a few good men's (one in particular's) stand against it that this novel is rightly remembered. Besides the primary theme of racism it also cleverly examines through subplots the notions of class prejudice, the urban- rural divide and the role of ignorance. Social division, alienation and isolation are portrayed at times humorously and at others poignantly but always with warmth and humanity.
Like `The Catcher in the Rye' this book is also a moving account of the painful passage from innocent childhood to cynical adulthood, in which the child's innate sense of fairness and justice is mediated by reality and societal pressures. Fortunately adulthood is saved by the moral lighthouse that is Atticus Finch, who's compassion and sense of justice is unperturbed by threat of injury to himself. His selfless need to do the right thing shines a beacon of reason through the darkness of ignorance, poverty and prejudice and demonstrates how an individual can make a difference and begin to turn the tide.
So long as there are human beings, the shadow of prejudice will forever lie just beneath the surface of even the most apparently civilised society and thus there will always be need for an Atticus Finch. This inspirational novel is a clarion call to all fair minded individuals to fight ignorance, poverty and discrimination.
Like many youngsters, I was assigned To Kill a Mockingbird to read as a 15 year old. Unlike most, however, the assignment was for speed reading class . . . rather than American Literature.
Don't ever read this book for speed reading class.
I always intended to get back to the book for a more leisurely reading that would allow me to take in the obvious brilliance of Harper Lee in more ways. I was pleased to find that my local library offered an unabridged reading by Roses Prichard (an actress with a Ph.D. in Communications from the University of Southern California) for Books on Tape.
In the first 15 seconds, I knew I had made a winning choice. Roses Prichard turns Scout (Jean Louise) Finch into a girl you'll feel like you've known all your life. Take the time to find this wonderful recording: You'll discover more in this book than you've ever thought could be in a book describing the thoughts and experiences of a five- to eight-year-old narrator.
Jem and Scout Finch are the only children of Atticus Finch, a highly principled lawyer in the small Southern town of Macomb, Alabama, whose wife died young of a heart attack. Unlike many novelists who cram their story into a few hours or days, Harper Lee showed the good sense to give us the family history and to let the children grow up over a few years before entering the heart of her tale. It's good story-telling and is great for character development.
Jem is five years older than Scout but tolerates her company as long as she doesn't start acting like a girl. That's fine with Scout who prefers overalls to dresses any day. As Jem grows older, he finds himself taking on the role of protector as well.
The children acquire a summer friend, Dill, and decide they want to meet the reclusive Arthur (Boo) Radley, a neighbor who always stays indoors. They have many adventures that will remind you of Tom Sawyer and Becky Thatcher in Injun Joe's cave.
The book is written in pre-Civil-Rights-era Alabama when consciousness of the bad things done to African Americans wasn't very well developed among those who weren't African Americans. The only people in the story who seemed to appreciate the full horror of discrimination are those who are honestly trying to live the Christian life. But even many practicing Christians proved to be blind to their African American neighbors' needs and concerns.
Harper Lee does a fine job of skewering all of those who are hypocrites on the subject of race. She even takes an appropriate shot at northerners who avoid the company of African Americans.
In a way, this book was The Uncle Tom's Cabin of the Civil Rights Movement, developing the consciousness that helped to change some attitudes towards African Americans.
The story also features lots of insights into Southern "justice" of the day -- inside the court, in the jury box, in jail, and in prison. To bring the evils of the attitudes to bear, Harper Lee tells us that it's wrong to kill a mockingbird . . . they only sing for us to enjoy and don't do any harm. By the end of the book, some of those in Macomb begin to feel that way about harmless human beings who do good, as well.
You can learn more about Southern culture and attitudes in the early 1960s by reading this book than by studying a dozen nonfiction texts. Harper Lee got it right. One of the lightning rods for racial tension in those days was unwarranted sexual fear of African-American males. That theme is fully developed through having an African-American be accused of raping a white woman.
But what I think makes this book timeless is its focus on what it means to be a good person . . . the story of Atticus Finch and his struggles with being both a good man and a good father.
But years from now you won't forget Scout: She's one of the great heroines in American literature and an important prototype of what the next generation should have become in loving other people.
Appreciate the untapped potential all around you!
on 20 June 2014
After finding out (to my horror) that my partner had never read 'To Kill a Mockingbird', I instantly hopped on to Amazon to buy a copy. I had to do this quickly before Michael Gove and his 'conservative buddies' ordered a mass burning of all texts that weren't by English authors.
I read this book for GCSE English 18 years ago, and I loved it that much I chose to write about it for 'A' level English Literature two years later.*(See below)
Now I'm not going to give a synopsis here because:
1. That would give the story away, and if you're wanting to buy a book, you want to read the story first hand by yourself.
2. That is what 'Wikipedia' is for lazy!
I am certainly going to read this book again, as it is just simply a fantastic book. Harper Lee does really well at transporting the reader into the sleepy town of Maycomb and all that is going on. She also expertly brings out the readers emotions - laughter, tears, sheer horror.
This is a book that you remember for life. So do yourself a favour - if you haven't read it, buy a copy now!
*Ok, the 'A' Level time was purely out of laziness, as we had to read 3 books and write a giant essay about them all. I figured to myself I'd choose one of the books that I had already read to make life easier, and by golly gosh, it did. There was no 'Wikipedia' back then sadly!
on 19 March 2007
There are many great books... and there are some books that, when read, stay with you forever. Harper Lee has written one of those books - To Kill A Mockingbird. Written from the perspective of a child (Scout Finch) it holds within it's pages an innocence that I have rarely found in any other book. This book may change the way you think... it may change your life... it will certainly make you wish for an era long gone - or one that may have never even existed, save for in the brilliant mind of Harper Lee.
But any students studying this book for an exam, be warned! Read the book, and do not try to cheat or take a short cut by watching the film. The book is written entirely from a childs point of veiw - and the film is definitely from the perspective of Scout and Jems father, Atticus Finch.
I've read this book maybe fifty times... and I'd still read it again, and again. Rarely is a book of this calibre written - don't miss out and pass it aside.
on 1 August 2010
I read this book while on holiday and had a bit of trouble to begin with it... It is one of those books that is so well written and has so many insights that you really have to be paying attention whist reading (hard when travelling).
The book only really starts in earnest around about a third of the way in, so you have to be a little patient to get to the crux of the matter (admittedly I don't read blurbs so didn't know what direction the book was going to take).
However, once underway, this book is a pearl of wisdom and humanity. The story of Scout and her family is simply stunning in its scope. By adopting to tell the story from a child's point-of-view, Lee has been able to deal with profound topics about humanity and injustice in a way that is accessible, funny and highly engaging.
The standout areas for me revolved around Atticus' explanations and empathy for others. I'm trying to adjust some of my thinking in my life based on what I've read in this book. Thoughts, like the fact we can and should try to put ourselves in others peoples shoes are so well explained.
For me, this book could be thought studied as a form of philosophy; the core principles revolving around empathy and pacifism. In today's world of terrorism and Pre-emptive Wars I wish more politicians (who've probably read this book) would go back to it adopt Harper Lee's doctrine.
I am not usually one to re-read books (after all, I'll never get through all the books I still want to read in this lifetime) but I suspect that this book will become one exception. There are so many treasures, insights and nuggets of wisdom that I didn't quite capture in my first read. Highly, highly recommended.