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04.08.2010- To Kill A Mockingbird

Forty years ago this year, Harper Lee's seminal, Pulitzer prize winning novel To Kill A Mockingbird was published. Apart from watching a few extracts from the film version starring Gregory Peck at school, I wasn't that familiar with Lee's novel, although it consistently tops literature polls and has sold a staggering number of copies since it was originally published in 1960. With this in mind, I bought To Kill A Mockingbird to take away with me on holiday, and soon found that I couldn't put it down. Lee's narrative tells the story of a miscarriage of justice in Depression era Alabama, when a black man, Tom Robinson, is found guilty of allegedly raping a white woman. This occurs despite the best efforts of the book's protagonist, lawyer Atticus Finch, and stark physical evidence which proves that Robinson would have been incapable of such an assault. The sub-plot centres on the reclusive figure of Boo Radley, along with the childhood adventures and coming of age of Scout Finch and her brother Jem, Atticus' two children. Lee crafts her novel so that events are characterised through the eyes of Scout, and this first person narrative is extremely engaging. We become endeared to Scout, her family and the difficulties they go through; from the first day of school to the final day of the trial and the tragic repercussions of the racial inequalities that prevail in Maycomb County. The novel is also beautifully crafted and perfectly paced, as Lee introduces the reader to the inhabitants of Maycomb and the idiosyncrasies of the neighbourhood before vividly describing the events of the trial and the ensuing fallout of the guilty verdict. Given that Lee herself grew up in Alabama and was the daughter of a lawyer, it is easy to see where her authentic style of storytelling has its origins, although Lee has always played down any autobiographical parallels. Indeed, since the book was published, she has not written any more novels, and still remains largely out of the public eye. It is perhaps then a testament to the enduring legacy, power and message of To Kill A Mockingbird that it stands alone as a mark of Harper Lee's brilliance as a writer, social commentator and literary icon of our time.

I can't recommend the book highly enough. What better way to celebrate its fortieth anniversary than to pick up a copy next time you're in a bookshop?

(Image credit: Google Images.)


  1. one of my favourite novels, i posted one of quotes from tkamb on my tumblr the other day :) x


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