Review: To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Title: To Kill A Mockingbird

Author: Harper Lee

Series: N/A

Genre: Literary Fiction

Publisher: Arrow

Summary (from Goodreads)

Lawyer Atticus Finch defends the real mockingbird of Harper Lee’s classic, Pulitzer Prize-winning novel—a, a black man charged with the rape of a white woman. Through the eyes of Atticus’s children, Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores with rich humor and unanswering honesty the irrationality of adult attitudes toward race and class in the Deep South of the 1930s.

What’s Good About It

Where can I start? I love this book. There’s good reason it won a Pulitzer and studying it for GCSE Lit didn’t kill it off for me. (Yes those two things are about on a par in terms of quality assurance.)

The story remains so timeless because it is the perfect window into that era of history – an era filled with things we often feel uncomfortable about. The terrible racism and the inequality of society are digestible because they are seen through the innocent eyes of a child. A child who questions the ‘truths’ of life as it was known in the American South in the 1930s with that brilliant insightfulness that children have. Harper Lee’s greatest success with her one and only novel was in achieving Scout’s perfect voice.

The anecdotal style of the telling compliments the narrator too – children don’t see the bigger picture, they see the smaller details, moving from one memorable incident to the next. The masterful way everything builds up throughout the novel is a real credit to the story telling, each little event a metaphor or bearing some relevance that only becomes apparent later in the novel. It’s wonderfully whimsical to read, but incredibly clever in its construction.

The moral dilemmas faced by the characters remain as pertinent today as they were back then. Though we have less racism, less inequality, there is still much to be desired from society. People are still treated differently according to race, religion, sexual preference and social class. Though we are largely much better than we once were, certain scenes still pack their political/emotional punch even now 50 years on.

On a slight sidenote, before my gushing love for this book becomes nauseating, my sister hates it. Absolutely hates it. She also had to study it at school, and I blame this for her venomous attitude towards it. I asked her why, but she is rarely coherent about why she dislikes things (or indeed why she likes things… you tend to get fangirl squees or non-fangirl bashing where Ivy is concerned.) As far as I could tell, she couldn’t get on with Scout as a narrator. Found her whiny apparently. So I guess it’s not for everybody, and I’ve seen a fair few reviews on Goodreads that rate it poorly, but as far as I’m concerned (and it is all personal opinion in the end) this is as close to perfect as a book can get.

What’s Not So Good

Not anything to do with the book itself, but if you are under 15, please please read this before you have to study it at school… It deserves to be loved, not pulled to pieces and studied intensely until it is hated!

Rating: 5/5

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