|To Kill a Mockingbird, Harper Lee|
This 1960’s American classic is hailed by British Librarians as one that “every adult should read before they die”. The story comes from the narration of Scout, a young girl who lives with her father and brother in Maycombe, a little town in the deep south of America. Through Scout’s voice we discover how her father is a lawyer defending a black man accused of raping a young white woman and the book highlights through the innocence of Scout’s perspective the harsh reality of racial inequality and class distinction.
First off, the positives… I can definitely see why the book is hailed as a classic. It deals with very close to the mark issues and portrays them through the perspective of a child which works to emphasise the crazzzzy irrationality of the prejudices that are being displayed.
The effect of blending the perspectives of Scout at the time the events were taking place and her retrospective narrative voice as an adult is carried out seamlessly without the narrative sounding clunky or disjointed.
I also really loved Scout’s father, Atticus, as a character. He had integrity, spirit and a warm sense of humour which filtered down into the personality of his children, Scout and Jem.
However, I found the first half of the book really slow, with the text focusing on a sub plot which surrounded a mysterious neighbour called Boo Radley. Although Boo does (in the end!), play a role in the larger context of the book I feel that his inclusion still feels a bit random and was too prominent in the first half.
It’s definitely not a page turner, and it isn’t a book that is going to grip you from the offset. However it certainly is a book where you can appreciate the skill with which it was crafted and the clever way in which it handles the issues at stake. The last few chapters are where the gritty action really happens so if you don’t mind sticking with it till then, it’s definitely worth your time.
Have you read any classics lately?