TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD Review

To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee

Synopsis: The unforgettable novel of a childhood in a sleepy Southern town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it, To Kill A Mockingbird became both an instant bestseller and a critical success when it was first published in 1960. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and was later made into an Academy Award-winning film, also a classic.

Compassionate, dramatic, and deeply moving, To Kill A Mockingbird takes readers to the roots of human behavior - to innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humor and pathos. Now with over 18 million copies in print and translated into forty languages, this regional story by a young Alabama woman claims universal appeal. Harper Lee always considered her book to be a simple love story. Today it is regarded as a masterpiece of American literature.

 

*****

 

Believe it or not, there was a time in my life when I did not care for reading. It wasn't a long period of time in my life, but one such time does exist -- my ninth grade year. Growing up I always loved reading, but there came a time when I grew out of the books I read obsessively (books by authors such as R.L. Stine, Beverly Cleary, and Andrew Clements) but had not yet found adult authors I enjoyed. I would try visiting the school or public library and could never find anything that really caught my eye . . . so for a period of nine months or so, I was not a big reader at all. 

 

As well, my ninth grade English teacher (still one of the best teachers I have ever had) assigned reading a lot. A LOT. The man basically lived and breathed literature. While he taught some grammar, he knew that by that time in his students' lives they either knew the basic rules of grammar or they didn't. No use in rehashing what we had been taught for so many years before. Instead, he assigned a lot of reading. Off the top of my head, I remember reading John Steibeck's Of Mice and Men, a few Shakespeare sonnets and Romeo and Juliet, Homer's The Odyssey, among many, many others. Also assigned in that class was Harper Lee's classic novel To Kill A Mockingbird.

 

I didn't read it. Wait, let me rephrase that: I read nine chapters of the thing before giving up. It wasn't bad; it was just "meh". Was not for me at that time. It's funny how time changes our perspective on books -- I could not put this one down after finishing chapter one a few days ago (and, yes, this was my first time reading TKAM all the way through). I suppose maturing a little gave me a keener insight into what Lee is doing in this extraordinary novel -- she's bringing out the complete good and the complete bad of Alabama circa 1935. It's tough times, and the author doesn't hold back on showing the harsh reality of the time. It's an intriguing, balanced portrait of the time.

 

This is a classic novel, I think, because though the bad in human nature is shown quite a good deal -- and, at times, even seems to win -- it is always the prevailing opposite, the innate goodness in us all,  that wins in the end . . . even if it doesn't seem obvious. 

 

There really isn't a whole lot I can say about this one. It's a fine novel, one of the best I've read this year. The characters are vivid and colorful, ones you won't forget for a long time. Lee resists painting in broad strokes when it comes to the issues of racism and growing up -- the two main themes in this novel -- but instead gives the issues the weight and complexities they deserve. None of the characters feel like ciphers; none of the plot points are without cause and reason. This is a coming-of-age novel like no other, really, and deserves all the awards it has received over the years. If you're one of the three people who have yet to read this story, do it now. You won't regret it.