on 26 January 2016
If you’ve never read (or perhaps not even heard of) To Kill a Mockingbird, then I’m sorry but you ought to be shot for crimes against literature. This lovely (and occasionally disturbing) story was, until recently, the only book that Lee ever published, but what a book it is – if you’re only going to publish one book, you might as well take your chance to tear the world apart with the serious questions on race and ethics that you pose to your reader, like Miss Lee did.
The story-line is reasonably well-known, and so I don’t want to go into it too much – broadly speaking, though, it follows the Finch family as the children’s father, Atticus Finch, attempts to defend a black man in a trial. Of course, I’m not going to tell you what the result is, but it’s actually the journey that conveys most of the story.
Racial discrimination was clearly still a problem in America as the 1950s turned into the 1960s, and whilst I accept that it’s still a problem in our current troubled times, it was even worse back in the day. Harper Lee doesn’t seem to be a fan of outright racism, and so her magnum opus was effectively designed to highlight the inherent unfairness that many people of colour were forced to endure.
To Kill a Mockingbird, then, isn’t just a novel – it’s a piece of history, and a key piece of literature in the war to create an enlightened, civilised world where people don’t kill each other for no reason or try to classify one another based upon their physical appearance. As Lee proves, there’s so much more to a person than their skin colour – it’s a lesson we can all learn from.
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 November 2013
I read this after a re-read of David Copperfield, perhaps my favourite novel, and I was worried that it would suffer by comparison. But, no, it held up very well. Harper Lee captures a sense of childhood innocence & adventure that compares to that of Dickens. It's easier to read than Dickens, and I can see why so many classroom teachers choose it. The characters, although interesting, aren't quite as memorable as those you find in best of Dickens, but what other author can produce characters like Uriah Heep or Mr Micawber? Also the plot is rather straightforward, and doesn't create the "stage fire" or "strange complexity" that Dickens manages to generate. But it's gripping, and I didn't get the "OK, but it's not Dickens", feeling I usually get from even the best of modern novels. More of a "Blimey, that's almost as good as Dickens!"
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 8 February 2015
I reached the age of 62 before reading To Kill A Mockingbird for the first time. my emotions are divided; disappointment that I had spent so long getting round to reading such a magnificent book; but excited to be discovering It is a truly good read, it isn't normally what I'd read but I loved it.
I tend to be very suspicious of a book if it's referred to as a 'classic' - too many of those I've read (or been forced to read) have been far too tedious. "To Kill a Mockingbird", however, is what a classic should be.
It tells of growing up in the deep Southern States of America in the 1930's told through the eyes of Scout Finch, a little girl, who is the centre of the novel, a young girl who lives with her brother, Jem and her father who's a lawyer. The most important storyline is a case her father has to deal with.
This is a novel which, which warms and breaks the heart at one and the same time. School syllabus material it may be, but it is far more than that, It's a touching tale that has moral values behind it.
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 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.
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.
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.