Title: To Kill A Mockingbird
Author: Harper Lee
Year published: 1961
Time It Took To Read: Two days
So, my sister lent me this, after expressing deep disbelief that I'd never read it, and I devoured it in two days. I like Southern fiction. It's an alien universe, with its own culture and ideology, one of the many reasons I think the True Blood stories work so well there.
The story centres on a rape trial, but is about inequality, racism and hypocrisy. It is set in the mid-30s, in Maycomb, Alabama, and centres on the Finch family. Atticus is a lawyer, and a widow; father to Jem and Scout. Scout, our narrator, is 6 at the beginning, and nearly 9 by the end. She is a vehement, spitting, fighting kitten-child, with a strong sense of injustice. The world, through her eyes, is a mass of contradictions, and her struggle to understand them becomes the reader's struggle.
The heart of the story is racism, both cultural and direct. A black man has been charged with the rape of a white woman, and the whole area is baying for blood. Atticus has been elected to defend the man, which gains the ire and insult of the community. Nobody is willing to consider that the man may be innocent. Slavery has been abolished for nearly seventy years, but the black community are still seen as inferior, dangerous and subhuman.
Scout, however, is more concerned with trying to rehabilitate her mysterious neighbour Boo Radley, not seen in her lifetime.
The characterisation is sublime, and evocative. The world of Maycomb, with all its contradictions and imperfections, is easily envisioned. Passing events in their lives, like the arrival of snow or a mad dog, are given all the meaning that they would have for a growing child. The atmosphere of the looming trial, is palpable. Its drama, humour and significance is perfectly expressed. The ending is shocking, but ties everything together.
Amazing book, in short. One everyone should read, especially those who take civil rights and equality for granted.
Book count: 20/50