FIFTY YEARS ON LEE STILL HAS PEOPLE FLOCKING TO READ HER LITERARY CLASSIC

Standard

to-kill-a-mockingbirdFor 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 to-kill-a-mockingbird-movie-posterlife 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’.

harper-lee

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)

REICHS MAKES NO BONES ABOUT HER PLACE AT THE TOP

Standard

Bones to Ashes cvrThey say “you should never mix business with pleasure”. This doesn’t seem to have been a problem for Kathy Reichs. By day she’s a respected Forensic Anthropologist in both North Carolina and Quebec and by night she’s the best selling author of nine books featuring her heroine Temperance Brennan. Not forgetting, also being the executive producer of the highly acclaimed TV series “Bones”. God where does she find time to work 9-5 let alone get eight hours sleep!!!

Her latest book is Bones to Ashes. It’s begins with Tempe relating the sudden disappearance of Evangeline Landry when they were both kids, growing up in North Carolina. Evangeline originally came from Tracadie in New Brunswick, Canada. Push forward to the present where Tempe is a forensic Anthropologist for the Coroner in Quebec, when the body of a fourteen-year-old girl, who appears to have been dead for a number of years is reluctantly handed over to her by the coroner in Tracadie. Is this her long lost childhood friend? Or are they ancient burial bones as the coroner is so eager to write them off as. On top of that, her erratic love life takes a sudden downward spiral when her long-term boyfriend, Detective Andrew Ryan decides to dump her. But still requests her help on a number of missing children cases (finally a character I can relate to in the romance stakes). Reeling from the train wreck of her relationship, her sister Harriet flies in with moral support and they both re-enact a similar search for Evangeline they embarked on all those years ago as kids. But this time the consequences and what they discover will threaten both their lives and Tempe’s professional one.

The book is pacey and well researched, the dialogue between the central characters lively and Tempe’s own inner thoughts are witty, coming straight from the hip. As with the previous books there is a healthy smattering of French all the way through, which adds a nice dimension and really brings the Québec inhabitants to life. Thus putting the series above the norm for this style of Thriller.

Kathy_Reichs

Writers are told to write about what they know and this is where Reichs has succeeded. It’s amazing to think that a little under ten years ago, the undisputed queen of slicem-and-dicem’s was Patricia Cornwell. That was until Kathy came on the scene. She hasn’t just left Cornwell behind, but signed her toe tag too. It shows in her cutting-edge medical knowledge and scapel sharp attention to detail. That this is written by a professional not the local coroners IT administrator.

I definitely recommend this book, but be warned have a bowl of Prof. Marie Cassidyoranges or a bottle of high strength vitamin pills nearby. The workload of both these women factually and fictionally will have you feeling run down after the first couple of pages. Me I’ll watch the boxette of “Bones” season two, while awaiting Prof. Marie Cassidy (Irish State Pathologist) to step up to the plate..

(first published in http://www.murphysview.blogspot.com  in 2009)

PETTERSEN STEALS THE SHOW WITH A NIL POINT PERFORMANCE

Standard

OutStealingHorsesWhere do you like to read? The train, the bus or snuggled up on the couch with a mug of cocoa or a glass of something stronger. Maybe with the recent inclement weather you’d rather be lazily swaying in hammock under a couple palm trees.

The other day I found a perfect place to read, you may not agree as to most of you it’s a place of work. I was in the lobby of a Police station; it’s brand spanking new, okay maybe a couple of years old. But its a damn site more welcoming, then the old confessional style window that is still present in some of the older stations. With it’s warm pinky peach colouring and a wide marble topped opening. What got me was the silence; god, I felt I could have completed ‘War and Peace in one sitting while there. But alas the lone female Garda, was quite adamant that it was a different story behind the desk, where she was single-handedly manning the phones and radios.

For this months book ,we move to the opposite range of the spectrum. Pacy and hectic are not how I would describe it. The Norwegian writer Per Pettersen recently won this years Dublin IMPAC literary award. With his English translated book ‘Out Stealing Horses‘. It tells the story of Trond a Norwegian teenager in 1948, who one morning while out in the woods witnesses a friend suffer a breakdown. This leads to the discovery of a personal tragedy and the consequences which will rip their two families apart. Years later and now an old man, Trond is living the life of a recluse in the hills following the sudden death of his wife. When a figure from his past forces him to go back over the whole sordid affair.

This book maybe only 250 pages long, but even that cant save it. From the outset it is a slow moving mess which loses the reader in it’s confusing leaps back and forth between the past and present. The narrative is positively grey, In a summer of rain and overcast skies the last thing I needed was a book set in the colourless Scandinavian winter.

per-petterson

The judges who selected this book to win the prestigious award are so out of sync with this reader to be almost in Oslo themselves. Did we read the same book, if so, they were probably strapped down to do so. Me, I was on the verge of checking into rehab afterwards. As for it’s selection, I personally wouldn’t have selected it for a bring and buy sale, let a lone a recognized literary award. I hope Mr Pettersen enjoys his €100,000 prize money and the accompanying profits from it’s sales.

This books triumph, doesn’t say much for the other shortlisted books which included such luminaries as Sebastian Barry and Salman Rushdie!!!!!, the judges were probably afraid they’d get a Fatwa placed on them.

(Previously published in http://www.murphysview.blogspot.com in 2009)