For years people have been saying to me, if you have to read one book before you die, you’ve go to read Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird. Not that I’m ready to die now that I’ve read it, but having done so I can certainly tick it off my “Bucket List”.
Published in 1960, it’s the only book Lee wrote and with it she created one of the greatest literary works of our time and in it gave us one of the great literary characters, in the shape of Atticus Finch. A father figure coveted by every kid in Christendom or at least the child inside everyone whose ever read the book or seen the Oscar winning film, starring Gregory Peck (Atticus) and a very young Robert Duvall (Boo Radley). In my view, if they ever wanted to replace Father Christmas; they wouldn’t be far wrong replacing him with Atticus Finch. I have to admit to looking back while reading this book and seeing aspects of Atticus in my late father or maybe it’s more to do with aspects of Atticus in all our fathers.
The book follows the young lives of Jem Finch and his sister “Scout” or Jean Louise, to give her full name. As they grow up in the small town of Maycomb in America’s Deep South during the 1930’s when the issue of race is at its height. Their father Atticus is a widower and local lawyer who is tasked with defending a young black man accused of raping a local white girl. The town takes sides and the ugly spectacle of mob justice and small town back-biting comes knocking on the quiet suburban door of the Finch family, The court case and the ripples it causes in the small town are seen through the eyes of young Scout, a girl wise beyond her years.
Maycomb has its usual gathering of weird and wonderful characters from the mysterious Boo Radley, who lives a secluded life in his parent’s house across the street from the Finches. To the various women in the neighbourhood who help open the children’s eyes to the harsh realities of life. But time and again the most outstanding character in the book is the kid’s father Atticus, a man who gives his kids just enough leeway to enjoy themselves but also someone worldly–wise, principled and unafraid to stand up for what is right.
The book was selected by my book group and I must say it was a fantastic read, although it does take a while to get to the courtroom drama. The run up to it is a good scene setter and the descriptions of the town are excellently done but once the court room drama is over, the book takes on a sedentary pace till the very end, when Lee hits us with a curve ball out of left field. At ten to one the other morning I was just about throw the book down and not finish it, when I reached the last two chapters and’ bam!’ I was hit square on by the turn of events and my determination to finish the book was rejuvenated.
There was a bit of confusion caused by the book during the past month among the book groupers; one of them thought we were supposed to be reading ‘Catcher in the Rye ‘(Don’t ask me how). On another occasion, a friend my partner and I had met for a drink asked me what the book was about, I quipped it’s like an episode of ‘Matlock,’ in three hundred pages. To which my partner said, ‘no! You’re confusing it with the guy in the wheelchair.’ We both looked at her and said, ‘Err that’s Ironside’.
So, take my advice if you haven’t read To Kill A Mockingbird yet, and your looking for a good read, you’ll not be disappointed by this book and like me and many others around the globe including one Victoria Beckham (she supposedly named her daughter Harper, after reading the book) you too can take it off your great “To Do” list.
(First published http://www.murphysview.blogspot.com 2012)