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To Kill a Mockingbird by Nelle Harper Lee Camilla Send a noteboard - 22/05/2011 06:28:11 PM
I held off reading this book for ages. Mainly because someone described it as a book about growing up in the South. While accurate, this is not all it is, and it is not the best selling point when describing a book to me: the bildungsroman has never been my favourite genre, and the American South not my favourite region. I also tend to be more drawn to European classics than the American ones (I do not know why; I am sure there is a sensible explanation that does not make me look like a bigot).

I do, however, feel drawn to the Truman Capote/F. Scott Fitzgerald New York scene of American writing, and it was via this avenue that I finally discovered Nelle Harper Lee for myself. She was a childhood friend of Capote, and I had heard that one of the characters in To Kill a Mockingbird was based on him. Naturally, I had to read it. Thus my discovery of one of the truly great books of the world.

It reminded me of all that is lovely about the American South; equally importantly, it dealt with the difficult questions of the region without becoming tiresome. I quickly lost sight of my original reason for reading it (the Capote character), although the semi-autobiographical side to the book kept my interest up in the beginning.

Words like "compelling" have lost much of their meaning through over-use, which is sad because it suits the book perfectly. It is also perfectly plotted, quite apart from the important themes it deals with. Each strand of the story, which is skilfully made to seem like simply an episode or moment of small town life becomes important in the story as a whole: Boo Radley, Tom Robinson, the pride of the Cunninghams, the difference between the Cunninghams and the Ewells, Mrs Dubose, the rabid dog, Atticus' sense of honour and his ability to do what is necessary, all come together; and I cannot find fault with the claim that opens the book, that to make sense of Jem's broken arm, the story must begin where it does. The variety of impressions and local sketches, then, do not only have a value in their own right as creating an image of a particular time and place, they also have a place in a tightly constructed plot. Still, I would argue that the road to the end is still the main point.

The treatment of racism is of course a central theme, and one which makes it all the more mind-boggling that people keep trying to have the book banned for its use of the word "nigger". It is so clear in its denunciation of the racism as the blight on an otherwise good society, that one must question whether those who object to it can read at all (as I believe Harper Lee did at one point). Still, reducing the book to its treatment of race is as problematic as presenting it as a book about growing up. Its many-facetedness is part of its particular charm: it deals with gender, class, ethics, law and morals as sides to the same problem as the question of race.

I cannot end this without noting that I loved her language. I have always had a secret love for the Southern American dialect (some versions of it, anyway; and Alabama is high on the list, as is Louisiana), and I could hear it while reading. This is rare. It is not the dialect I fall into while reading, usually; I must therefore conclude that it is due to the rhythm of the words themselves. In addition, the voice of the narrator, that of a little girl who has grown up, held a particular appeal for me. The story, which weaves through terrible questions of a travesty of justice founded in racism, domestic violence, terrible poverty, class distinction, gender questions, education and crime, does so in such a light, simple and straightforward way, and with lovely such humour and ironic treatment of absurdities, that you are left with all your energy intact. As I said, I love the style.

More than all this, however: I love Atticus Finch. I defy anyone not to.
structured procrastinator
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To Kill a Mockingbird by Nelle Harper Lee - 22/05/2011 06:28:11 PM 6837 Views
I reviewed it last year - 22/05/2011 07:45:48 PM 1182 Views
Huh. I seem to have missed that. - 22/05/2011 11:17:11 PM 1125 Views
It's a beautiful, incredible book. - 22/05/2011 08:21:48 PM 1042 Views
Re: It's a beautiful, incredible book. - 22/05/2011 11:18:32 PM 1025 Views
Also - 22/05/2011 11:33:27 PM 1017 Views
Don't you think that, you know, too many people have read it already? - 23/05/2011 09:55:52 PM 1076 Views
Does that disqualify it? - 24/05/2011 01:49:54 PM 1026 Views
I don't know, if a lot of people want to have this book in a Book Club, I have no objections. - 24/05/2011 07:01:38 PM 987 Views
Well, that's true. - 25/05/2011 01:20:54 PM 1086 Views
Loved that book. - 22/05/2011 09:07:16 PM 1010 Views
Re: Loved that book. - 22/05/2011 11:19:29 PM 1068 Views
A great book - 22/05/2011 09:13:12 PM 1066 Views
Re: A great book - 22/05/2011 11:20:02 PM 1031 Views
“Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father’s passin’.” *NM* - 23/05/2011 12:03:34 AM 546 Views
Indeed. *NM* - 23/05/2011 09:37:38 AM 523 Views
Bah. This seems like a lame book. It will never catch on. - 23/05/2011 01:31:10 AM 1152 Views
LOL *NM* - 23/05/2011 08:36:55 AM 501 Views
Hehehe. *NM* - 23/05/2011 09:38:03 AM 588 Views
Um, there's already a rfilm version of this. - 23/05/2011 01:11:36 PM 900 Views
Suspect he knows that. *NM* - 23/05/2011 01:15:46 PM 549 Views
I don't think I've ever met anyone who doesn't like this book. *NM* - 23/05/2011 09:37:52 AM 516 Views
So it survives being taught in school? - 23/05/2011 09:39:18 AM 947 Views
Yup. *NM* - 23/05/2011 02:47:17 PM 535 Views
I've met some, but it was a casualty of middle school English. *NM* - 23/05/2011 07:40:27 PM 460 Views
Thanks for the review. - 23/05/2011 10:07:46 PM 1171 Views
Re: Thanks for the review. - 24/05/2011 12:14:08 AM 1133 Views
Let me ask the politically incorrect questions, since no one else has. - 24/05/2011 03:14:50 AM 1227 Views
Hmm - 24/05/2011 10:22:50 AM 1139 Views
I think that's a fair point. - 24/05/2011 07:00:04 PM 1111 Views
Calpurnia is a stereotype too. - 24/05/2011 11:54:26 PM 1033 Views
The difference, at least in my recollection, is that Calpurnia is well-educated. - 25/05/2011 08:09:58 PM 1007 Views
Re: The difference, at least in my recollection, is that Calpurnia is well-educated. - 25/05/2011 10:59:26 PM 1076 Views
Yes. This. *NM* - 26/05/2011 04:56:48 AM 479 Views
I think there was at least once incident showing a racist black person - 24/05/2011 07:33:09 PM 1188 Views
Almost a non-incident - 24/05/2011 08:51:59 PM 981 Views
I think it was written to accomplish a goal and it did that very well - 25/05/2011 04:08:17 PM 1063 Views
Given your introductory portion - 11/06/2011 01:28:40 AM 1054 Views
It just occurred to me - 11/06/2011 01:30:05 AM 898 Views
Re: It just occurred to me - 11/06/2011 11:36:21 AM 979 Views
I have read both - 11/06/2011 11:35:11 AM 937 Views
All of Twain's stuff is great - 13/06/2011 02:27:55 AM 1067 Views
Re: All of Twain's stuff is great - 13/06/2011 08:17:05 AM 1036 Views
And some poets - Tennyson and Yeats come to mind. *NM* - 13/06/2011 10:11:31 AM 489 Views
Keats? - 13/06/2011 10:14:58 AM 937 Views
I have to say... - 13/06/2011 05:27:26 PM 968 Views
Re: I have to say... - 13/06/2011 05:54:45 PM 946 Views

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