To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Holley’s Review #7 of 12
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
1961 Pulitzer Prize
1999 YALSA Outstanding Books for the College Bound

I set out to love this book. After all, the author is a native Alabamian like myself and the story is set in Alabama as well. I heard the untold accolades of hundreds of people ringing in my ears as I began. I did like this book, but I didn’t love it. I’ll forever be glad I read it but it will not figure in to the core collection of rereads that buy and hoard in a china cabinet in my living room.

The (fictional) southern town of Maycomb, Alabama could have come standard with an overlying whistled tune and a red haired boy going fishing. Ms. Lee did an outstanding job in conveying what the rural town life of 1930’s Alabama must have been like. I found some people I loved in Scout, Jem, Atticus, Calpurnia, and Dill while the bad guys, the Ewell family, were indeed very bad.

The first part of the book detailing the children’s early life, summer activities and educational difficulties dragged on for me. I just was not able to get into their lives and enjoy the storyline. The book only picked up for me once Tom Robinson physically entered the Finchs’ lives when the mob from Meridian came to make terrible mischief. From that point on, especially the trial scene, I was hooked in and devoured the rest of the book. The other, more slow-moving parts were just such a big part of the book that I cannot, in good conscience, say that I loved it. I also could not get used to treatment of and language concerning the African Americans in the book. I knew what it was about, knew the words were there, and tried to prepare myself for them before I ever picked it up but it was still a shock every time one of the characters (especially the children) spoke so hatefully, unintentionally or not. How could Ms. Lee have ever portrayed the circumstances and people without those mannerisms? I don’t think it could have been done any other way but that doesn’t stop me from being uncomfortable with it.

Isn’t it odd how you perceive of yourself as a mature, sophisticated reader and still something will come along that shocks you? I had the same problem with J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye except I didn’t finish that book. I never found anything to connect with in the story. I guess it is a testimony to these stories that they still have the capacity to shock so long past their original publications.

Happy Reading!