0319 | To Kill a Mockingbird | Harper Lee

0319 | To Kill a Mockingbird | Harper Lee

Context: Our gardener started a little veggie garden for us while I was reading this one. I kid you not but those beans were seeds FOUR days ago!

REVIEW

And so I have finally read a book that all USAnians seems to have been forced to read at school at some point. So, now they’ll no longer gasp in disbelief when I say “Nope, never read it!” I usually follow it up with “But have you read Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee?” and then it’s my turn to gasp in disbelief. What did I think of this modern classic? Well…

I can see that this is a good book and that it is important reading for the young USAnian. I mean it has much more cultural relevance than Lord of the Flies does for us Brits and we all have to read that (it seems). But I honestly can’t see why it won a Pulitzer and has sold billions of copies. Excepting that is that it is short enough to be taught in school and is told from a child’s point of view. Given that, it doesn’t have much competition that I’m aware of for being a hit with schools. Maybe that’s why it was a hit… just in the right place at the right time.

It’s a waaaaay better book than the film. I so wish I didn’t have to endure repeated memories of Gregory Peck in black and white (certain racial irony there methinks) in court. The book is much much richer and you get a far better sense of the intimacy of the experiences that Scout describes and their impact on her.

The story doesn’t really hold together for me I’m afraid, despite the fact that I like Scout as a character. It’s not a bildungsroman really. It’s not about race issues really. It’s not a cleverly disguised critique of the adult world of the time. It’s kind of all these things rolled into one really, and in such a short book, that’s a lot to pull off. I wonder whether Lee accomplished this to the detriment of the cohesive whole.

I tell you one thing I did like and that was the ending. It’s kind of hanging there and you’re not sure where it might go. Also, everything doesn’t all work out happily ever after which also helps me realise that the author lives in a reality similar to mine.

So, it’s important and that’s why my rating has turned out as high as it has for a book I didn’t enjoy 74% of but realise the legacy of.

OPENING LINE

When he was nearly thirteen my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.

QUOTES

There are just some kind of men who who’re so busy worrying about the next world they’ve never learned to live in this one…

A mob’s always made up of people, no matter what.

CLOSING LINE

He would be there all night, and he would be there when Jem waked up in the morning.

RATING

0319 | To Kill a Mockingbird | Lee | 74% | Very Good

Key: Legacy | Plot / toPic | Characterisation / faCts | Readability | Achievement Read more about how I come up with my ratings

  • Patrice Marco July 24, 2011, 8:46 am

    I always wonder too on some novels why it won some certain awards. Not to say they weren’t deserving but there are much more better ones than the winner. I’ve read this novel 3 times and i have no idea why i did so since i also got a lot of others to finish. I like your review, because that’s the feeling i get when i first read it. It’s like liking it but you still got questions about it. Well that makes me read it a couple of times, and with every try it raises some questions. Including why this i the only novel the author writes. ^_^

    Reply
    • Arukiyomi July 25, 2011, 1:42 pm

      well Gone With the Wind was Mitchell’s only book but it took her 10 years to write and she had a hard time with the fame it brought her. I wonder why Lee never wrote anything yes.

      Reply
  • Amanda July 24, 2011, 2:26 pm

    BAH! I’ve never disagreed with you about a book more in life! This is probably my favorite book ever. I even named one of my twins Atticus. Sigh.

    Reply
    • Arukiyomi July 25, 2011, 1:44 pm

      Well it’s fine to disagree Amanda. But please do tell me why this book is your favourite ever. I could understand it if you weren’t well read but I do know you’ve read a few. There are way more moving plot lines and better developed characters out there. Why place this one on a pedestal? Convince me!

      Reply
  • Patrice Marco July 25, 2011, 7:59 pm

    Off topic though, i’m really excited on what you’ll say on the books that I’ve read and is on your tbr list. And by the way, your blog really helps me on whats next i’ll try that is included on the list.

    Let us all keep on reading. ^_^

    Reply
  • Rebecca July 26, 2011, 5:35 am

    I think the greatness of this book stems from Atticus, a character based on Harper Lee’s own father. Doing what is right comes at a cost, but you must pay the price. You should have empathy for others, which can be a vastly underrated quality but one which is essential to our humanity. The innate goodness of Atticus is reflected in the actions of his children and proves that one person can touch so many lives for the better without needing to be a high profile figure. It’s something someone more ordinary like myself can strive for – to be a good mother or a good friend can be enough to make your life a success. And I think Harper Lee only wrote one novel because this story was largely autobiographical and nothing else could provide the same level of inspiration.

    Reply
    • Arukiyomi July 27, 2011, 12:11 pm

      hmmm… nice to read your comment Rebecca. Certainly helps me appreciate the book more. Yes, Atticus is a great character, no doubt about it. I’m not sure I agree with “The innate goodness of Atticus is reflected in the actions of his children” – I mean they don’t seem to extend to Boo Radley the lack of prejudice that Atticus extends to Tom. They don’t even seem to understand what prejudice is actually (such as not realising what is taking place outside the jail house at night with Atticus and the mob), so it’s hard to see how they are reflecting him when they don’t have the maturity yet to choose not to be prejudiced in the face of the mob.

      And let’s remember that goodness is not innate to any of us. That’s why we praise it when we see it in people like Atticus.

      Reply
  • Rebecca July 27, 2011, 2:40 pm

    While Scout and Jem may fail to extend to Boo Radley a lack of prejudice initially, by book’s end Scout finally understands and feels empathy for him. Prejudice can be described as fear or hatred generated by ignorance. Scout states that Atticus says to know a man you have to walk around in his shoes, but for her just standing on the Radley porch was enough (that line kills me). That knowledge and maturity came at the expense of childhood innocence. In terms of outside the jail house, I think Jem knows much more than Scout about what’s going on and he is steadfast in not wanting to leave. He is also distraught at the verdict. You’re right about goodness not being innate – it is a choice, and sometimes a difficult one. It just seems to come naturally to Atticus (perhaps enhanced by the narrative being from Scout’s loving point of view?).

    Reply

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