To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

When a book is as famous as To Kill a Mockingbird, there’s little I can add to the dialogue that is likely to be ground-breaking. Therefore, I won’t attempt anything too clever or academic in summary.

What I have realised, is how much I thought I knew about this book that turned out to be misguided. I knew it was a book about race and racism, and believed that was the sole dominant message. What I found to be the case, is that it is a big part of the book, but not in the overriding way I was expecting. Community, family, and coming-of-age are just as prominent.

I also falsely believed it to be largely a courtroom drama, picking apart the trial of Tom Robinson. The reality is that the actual trial accounts for a mere 60 of the book’s 309 pages. The court proceedings and judgement of the town is burbling away in the background for a good while, but it stays very much off-stage.

There is so much beautiful scene-setting from Harper Lee in this book. We become immersed in the town and its inhabitants long before we hear of Tom Robinson. The children’s fascination with Boo Radley, summers spent with Dill, fearsome Mrs Dubose and the wonderful maid Calpurnia are just some.

Speaking of wonderful, characters do not get any better than the infamous Atticus Finch. Quiet, measured, fair. It is clear why he has stood the test of time as one of the great literary heroes. There is so much wisdom within the pages of the book. Each chapter brings moral lessons that we learn through the eyes of Scout Finch. She too is a fantastic character, who we watch grow and grow up.

60th Anniversary Edition

To Kill a Mockingbird is truly a stunning book with a masterful structure. It reads beautifully smooth for a book now celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2020. This is a classic piece of twentieth century literature well worth ticking off your list. It took me long enough, as you can see I have the 50th anniversary edition. I firmly believe that sometimes the book chooses you, and this one was on my shelf for three years until it finally drew me to pick it up. It was well worth the wait!

Go Set a Watchman

I have been asked if I will read Go Set a Watchman, and the answer is no. I don’t believe that Harper Lee would have wanted it published in its unfinished early draft form – especially when we have the final version in To Kill a Mockingbird. It was always going to be a bestseller because of what it is and who it is written by. However, I personally would prefer to absorb it in non-fiction form, as part of a wider textual analysis of her writing.