To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee

to kill a mockingbirdTo Kill A Mockingbird seems to be one of the most loved book in the history of literature, so I was excited to finally get to read it. Did I fall in love with it?

Prior to reading, I knew there was a lawyer as main character and I was expecting court scenes. But there was no court scene until the second half of the book, which was a peak too short finished too soon for me. However, looking back, I don’t think the court scene or the lawyer were ever the main focus of the book. To Kill A Mockingbird is essentially a coming-of-age story.

The narrator of the book is 6 year-old Scout. We have the privileged to view everything from her eyes. She has an older brother Jem, and father she calls Atticus (mom died). The maternal role in the house is often held by Calpurnia, a black maid who’s been with the family for the longest time. There are a lot of characters coming into view soon after: neighbors, friends, teachers, extended family. It’s a small town so everybody knows everybody and everybody has their own role to fit into: doctor, sheriff, lawyer, newspaper editor, judge, reverend, field owner, and so on.

Later on we find out that Atticus is given the task to defend a black man in court for alleged rape of a white girl, so racism is obviously one of the main themes. But not only that, with inquisitive curious Scout, the book gets to question many things in the world. About poverty, school system, role of women and womanhood, justice, fairness (or the lack of them), and evils in the world.

harper leeI admit, during the reading of the book, I thought it was pretty flat. The first half of the book was mostly about two-three kids running amok in the neighborhood. It is well written book full of gentle humor and I enjoyed reading it but there were very few things that made me want to pick up the book once I put it down. I wondered if the greatness of the book is mostly for the Americans. It seems to be The American book if you want to know about Southern US in 1930s. Is it great for nostalgic reason for the Americans? Is it as great looking from foreigner’s point of view who has completely different background and history? I wasn’t convinced.

I watched the movie (more on that below) soon after reading the book and read other people’s reviews. I’m thinking there are a lot of elements contained in this one small book that it’s possible to not pay attention to them the first time around and get more out of succeeding reads. Correct me if I’m wrong, but the books seems to have high re-readability value. Also, the main characters are drawn very strong that I’m sure they will stay with me for a long time. I adored feisty Scout, moody Jem, and admired The Great Atticus. Which other book features a fist-fighting 6 year-old girl? She almost sounds too good to be true! Then there’s the role of Dill (Scout and Jem’s friend) who is based of Truman Capote, my favorite author (Lee and Capote were childhood friends. Lee went together with Capote for the research of Capote’s In Cold Blood). Therefore after much consideration, I’m giving To Kill A Mockingbird:

1960, 281 pp

It’s a worthy read. Definitely.

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After finishing the book I just found out that there’s no better time for me to read it as this year is the 50th anniversary of To Kill A Mockingbird and there are celebrations all over. Both she is too fond of books and Capricious Reader are holding a month-long celebration in July. Have you read To Kill A Mockingbird? If you haven’t, there’s no better time than NOW :).

ps: Below is the Australian version of 50th anniversary of To Kill A Mockingbird by Random House. I like it!

To Kill A Mockingbird

First line
When he was nearly thirteen, my bother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.

1961 Pulitzer Prize


“Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.” ~ p18

“… one must lie under certain circumstances and at all times when one can’t do anything about them.” ~ p128

Book Awards IV (book #11), Read the Book, See the Movie (pair #5), 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die, The Pulitzer

Also reviewed by
Rebecca Reads
| Serendipity | Graasland | Booklust | The Reading Life

The Film

to-kill-a-mockingbird-dvdcoverThe black and white 1962 movie starring Gregory Peck won him Oscar for Best Actor. It also won Best Art Direction and Best Writing. Mary Badham who played Scout was nominated for Best Supporting Actress and the movie was nominated for more categories.

In short, I thought the movie was great. Of course there are a lot of things that got cut, but you’d expect that for book to movie adaptation. In the movie Atticus and the court scene seems to get the most attention, not Scout and her growing up. But the mood and the general atmosphere stay true to the book, and Atticus in the movie is exactly like what I imagined him to be.

I love the scene where all the black people in the court balconies wait until everybody has gone except Atticus downstairs, and stand up as a sign of respect. A great cinematic touch. What I was really disappointed to be cut off was the part where Scout and Jem went to Calpurnia’s church. It’s probably one of my favorite scenes in the book, that shows the tension between the black and the white. In the movie with the omission of the church scene the kids suddenly meet Reverend in the court, who comes out of nowhere with no background story ever told, so it felt really odd.

After watching the movie I just realized that I watched Gregory Peck in Roman Holiday before, in which he played with Audrey Hepburn, my movie heroine. Two great movies in a row. Nods for Gregory Peck.

Rating: 8/10

Also reviewed by
Ripple Effects (with pictures of the DVD set) | Rebecca Reads (who hated the movie)

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