Monday, November 8, 2010

To Kill A Mockingbird

"To Kill A Mockingbird" by Harper Lee
Published 1960
Source: I bought this one for my kids from those flyers the kids bring home

"Maycomb was an old town, but it was a tired old town when I first knew it"

This is the home of Scout Finch, narrator of the story of her youth, her unusual father, Atticus, her older brother, Jem, and the people that surrounded them in the mid-1930's in Alabama.

"People moved slowly then.  they ambled across the square, shuffled in and out of the stores around it, took their time about everything.  A day was twenty-four hours long but it seemed longer.  There was no hurry, for there was nowhere to go, nothing to buy and no money to buy it with, nothing to see outside the boundaries of Maycomb County."

By now, particularly in light of the recent 50th anniversary buzz about this book, you're all probably familiar with the story.   This was the first time I have read this book, although I have seen the movie adaptation several times.  I was both pleased to see how well the book had been adapted (including most of the dialogue) and surprised by how much more there was to discover in the book.

I've always had the impression that Atticus Finch was an ideal father (although this may have something to do with the fact that he's played by Gregory Peck in the movie).  The beginning of the book gave me another impression.

"Jem and I found our father satisfactory; he played with us, read to us, and treated us with courteous detachment."  

Courteous detachment?  Hardly what I would consider a perfect parent.  Atticus is often preoccupied and carries the weight of Maycomb on his shoulders.  Yet he clearly cares deeply about his children and instills in them his deep moral beliefs.

Molly, of The Bumble's Blog, pointed out something to me that I certainly never noticed while watching the movie.  While Scout may be the narrator, and certainly a key player in the book, this is really Jem's coming of age story  The movie adaptation leaves out many events that showed this.  Curiously, it also left out what I thought was one of Scout and Jem's greatest lessons, a lesson Scout learned from her teacher, Miss Gates.  During class one day, Miss Gates is discussing events in Hitler's Germany.  She tells her students:

"Over here we don't believe in persecuting anybody.  Persecution comes from people who are prejudiced."
But Scout knows differently.  Following the trial of Tom Robinson (a black man), Scout recalls hearing Miss Gates say:

"...it's time somebody taught 'em a lesson, they were gettin' way above themselves, an' the next thing they think they can do is marry us."  
This is a beautiful book.  If you've ever started it and put it down because it was so slow paced, give it another try.  Until I was about half way through the book, I was only reading a few pages a day.  I thought it was lovely but it just was not pulling me in.  Then I found that I could not put the book down; I simply wanted to immerse myself in Maycomb.  In the end, I was sad to be done with it and sorry that I will never again have a chance to read this book for the first time.
"Your father's right," she [Miss Maudie] said.  "Mockingbirds don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy.  They don't eat up people's gardens, don't nest in corncribs, they don't do one thing but sing their hearts our for us.  That's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird."
Thanks for convincing me to read this one, Molly!

22 comments:

  1. I LOVED this book as well, and reading your review makes me want to reread it!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Lisa, I've never read this book and have started it once and stopped because I felt it was too slow going. However, after reading your fantastic review, I'm definitely going to give it another shot - thanks! This book truly sounds like it will be a great read!

    ReplyDelete
  3. I keep putting off rereading it because I have seen the movie so many times, but everyone says the book is even better - I should get to it! And I know exactly what you mean about being done with a book and then being sad because you won't read it again for the first time!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I haven't read this since the eighth grade, and with all the attention it's getting lately, I made a note to read it again very soon. I am so glad to hear that you loved it and will be looking forward to it as well. It really is a timeless book.

    ReplyDelete
  5. It is a beautiful book, and your post did it justice. My husband read it for the first time this summer--since all three of our kids read it in high school and raved about it, he wanted to find out what they liked, and was blown away by it as well.

    There really is nothing like reading an exceptionally good book for the first time :)

    ReplyDelete
  6. I adore this book and I'm so glad you read it and discovered how wonderful it is. I love that Molly pointed out that this is really Jem's coming of age story. Basically, there are so many themes, topics and issues in this book that you can read it year after year and find something new every time.

    ~ Amy

    ReplyDelete
  7. Lucky you, getting to experience this treasure for the very first time.

    ReplyDelete
  8. I too loved this book. You cant rush through this one though.

    ReplyDelete
  9. This is a favorite of mine! Thanks for posting this review with all of the lovely quotes.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I read this book when I was in middle school and loved it. I wonder what new insights I would pick up if I were to read it now.

    ReplyDelete
  11. It's a treasure for sure, one that I've read a few times & will be doing so again to help lead the discussion on it with our evening book club in 2011 and I'm looking forward to it!

    ReplyDelete
  12. I have this book, and yes I bought it after all the buzz too! I really need to get to it one of these days.
    I have not seen the movie adaptation.

    ReplyDelete
  13. This one deserves a re-read for sure!

    ReplyDelete
  14. The first time you fall in love is always the sweetest, isn't it?

    ReplyDelete
  15. What an incredibly fabulous review! I'm embarrassed to admit that I don't believe I read this book, or if I did, it's been more than 20 years since, so I really need to pick this back up to refresh myself with it. Great review!

    ReplyDelete
  16. Great excerpts! This book is very deserving of all of the praise and its status as a classic. I re-read it this year (although I barely remembered it) and fell in love. It seems trite to say it's one of my favorites, but it's true.

    ReplyDelete
  17. I also have to say that the audiobook, read by Sissy Spacek, is phenomenal. I read the book in high school and hardly remembered it. Then I listened to the audiobook last summer and absolutely loved the experience!

    ReplyDelete
  18. It's been years since I last read To Kill A Mockingbird and seeing so many people reading it for the first time this year has made me want to revisit it. It's such a great book and definitely worth reading.

    ReplyDelete
  19. This is such an amazing book, isn't it? I just finished reading The Heroine's Bookshelf by Erin Blakemore, and she gave me an entirely new appreciation for Scout!

    ReplyDelete
  20. I read this book for the first time earlier this year, and I loved it, too. I never really thought of it as Jem's coming of age story, but I can see that.

    ReplyDelete
  21. This is one of my all time favorites. Glad you liked it too :)

    ReplyDelete
  22. I first read it in paperback, as I've done with most of my books (and these days, more likely ebooks!), but this was so special, that I bought a Folio Society hardback edition to have on my bookshelf. I've only done that with one other book - Pillars of the Earth, by Ken Follett.

    ReplyDelete