July 22, 2013

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Title: To Kill A Mockingbird
Author: Harper Lee
Publisher: Grand Central Publishing
Publish Date: April 2010 (first published 1960)
Genre: Classics, Historical Fiction
Pages: 376
Rating: 5/5 Stars

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.

I generally don't review classics, but this was assigned summer reading for me this year and so I had to take a break from my normal YA novels to read this. And considering I loved it, I figured I'd post a review.

What can I say? Everything about this book had my attention. The characters were simple with an underlying deep about them, the plot was evenly paced (not too slow, not too fast), and the symbols had me puzzling out everything that they meant.

I loved the fact that it was told from Scout's point of view. Over the course of the book Scout was around seven to nine years old. It's an interesting choice of age considering the mature theme of the entire book, but it worked extremely well. Harper is innocent but not to the extent that you would expect, and she's smart. While she may not know exactly what's going on--especially in relation to the trial--she knows that there's more to the world than what she sees in her town. This book could easily have been a drab, boring classic, but from Scout's vantage point we get a fresh dose of spunk, quick-wit, and joy.

Let's talk about Boo Radley, the town recluse. He never comes out of his house, and no one really knows all that much about him. All we know of him comes from small presents he hid in the tree for Jem and Scout. While his presence in the book is not physical (except for one key part) he is extremely important to the story. He is an example of good in a town where there is so much bad--in a story where there are so many characters with terrible goals and views. The book is littered with lies told by the characters Harper Lee has concocted, but Boo Radley is an exception. He may be considered a recluse, but he is also a good man and a true friend. If there ever was a character who deserved more credit than he received, Boo Radley is that character.

Once the trial was over, I thought to myself, "how could there possibly be one hundred more pages of this book?" But the ending was strong and definitely necessary. While Harper Lee doesn't give much clue to what happens next, we are left satisfied. I wouldn't call her writing refreshing, but the character voices are distinctive from each other and steady over the course of the novel.

This was a touching read that brought to attention racism in the 1930s from an interesting vantage point. I hope that more books I read in the future will be as heartwarming as this one.

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