July 30, 2013
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (Review)
Author: Harper Lee
First published: 1960
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I first read To Kill a Mockingbird when I was a little more than 10 years old, and I didn't like it. I have no idea now why it was so, but I suspect that I either didn't know much about the situation with African Americans in USA at that time or the translation was not very good. I don't know if I would have picked up the book again if not for To Kill a Mockingbird read-along hosted by Adam at Roof Beam Reader, and I'm very glad I did, because this time I enjoyed it immensely!
The novel tells the story of a jail case involving a Negro Tom Robinson in a small rural country of Maycomb in the South of US in the 30th. At that time there was no justice towards the blacks: even though the case was very plain and there was all the evidence that Tom hasn't raped Mayella, the girl in question, he is still found guilty by the jury. The story is told from the point of view of Scout Finch, daughter of Atticus Finch, who is a lawyer appointed to defend Tom and considers it his duty towards his children and conscience to do his best in the case. Most of the citizens, though, don't like that Atticus is a "nigger-lover" and try to abuse him and his children because of this. This trial is a heartbreaking experience for Scout and her brother, not only because they acutely feel the injustice of the outcome and helplessness of their father, but also because Mayella's father attacks them with a knife some time after the jail.
Scout's perspective is one of the things that makes this book so amazing. All the children's games, school experiences, joys and sorrows are captured most beautifully. Unlike grown-up citizens of Maycomb, children in the book are not so hardened racists, and choosing to tell the story from their point of view gives some hope that the situation will become better when they grow up, and this early experience will help them be to become better people. This is essentially a coming-of-age story, and a very powerful one.
It may seem that the book is very moralistic, but it is not so. There is a message in the novel, and a very clear one, but it is not obtrusive. And there is so much more to the book that ideology! The writing is lively and witty, the characters are well-developed, and the row of events is so gripping it is sometimes impossible to put the book down. While I was reading the jail scenes I missed the supermarket's closing time and had to order food not to stay hungry all the evening :)
In my book:
There is a reason why To Kill a Mockingbird is a classic, and a very widely known one, and the reason is that it is amazing! From my own experience, the book is better appreciated if you read it as an adult rather than a child, but maybe it's just me. Now it's one of my favourites!