Saturday, 11 April 2009

To Kill a Mockingbird - Harper Lee

Read: February 2007

To Kill A Mocking Bird stands alongside Danny The Champion of the World by Roald Dahl as one of the books which should be made compulsory reading for all fathers-to-be. Because, as Roald Dahl writes, “What every child needs is a dad who is sparky.” You cannot have a better example of parenting, than that offered by Atticus Finch.

To Kill A Mockingbird is the story of Atticus Finch, a lawyer who defends a black man charged with attacking a white girl. But it is also the story of childhood discovery, of those events which awaken one from the games of childhood, to a realisation that the world is far from just, and things are never quite as they seem. Told through the eyes of Atticus’s children, Scout and Jem, To Kill a Mockingbird takes us into the heart of the Deep South in the 1930’s, where racial and class tensions run deep, and prejudice threatens to railroad justice out of town. It is a town in need of compassion and honour, and into this breach strides Atticus Finch, whose lone struggle for justice places him in an almost impossible situation, but whose steadfast refusal to break his principles slowly begins to prick at the collective conscience of the townsfolk.

But amidst the tension of the case, Scout and Jem still have the mystery of their neighbour, Boo Radley, to solve. Who is he? Why does he never come out of his house? Why is he leaving them little presents? He is a man who scares and enthrals them in equal measure. And they are about to learn that heroes and monsters come in many guises, and that physical appearance does not define who a person is.

Published in 1960 and winner of the Pulitzer Prize, To Kill a Mockingbird is one of those books which you just have to read. It is studied in almost all English speaking countries, beloved by almost all who read it, passionate, and moral. It is the sort of wholesome, troubling, complex, beautiful, inspiring, and thought-provoking book which we all wish could be written every day. But it cannot, and that is what makes To Kill a Mockingbird such a treasure. It really is one of a kind. Harper Lee has never published another book, and rarely written an article or appeared in public. She doesn’t need to. To Kill a Mockingbird is a greater achievement than most authors manage in a whole career.

8 out of 10

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