Publisher: J.B. Lippincott, 1960
Genre: Literary Fiction
My Rating: A+
To Kill a Mockingbird was a unanimous choice by the members of my book club. It was a reread for all of us. As I suspected, the meeting was nothing but a love-fest in tribute to the book and author. All eight of us sat there and sang the praises of Harper Lee. No one had a negative thing to say. How’s that for a ringing endorsement?
We started our discussion by talking about our favorite characters. Many named Atticus Finch as their favorite. To be honest, we were all seeing Gregory Peck in our minds when we imagined Atticus. By the way, did you know that Harper Lee became good friends with the Peck family. The Peck named their grandson Harper in her honor.
My favorite character was Scout, the six-year old narrator. I could easily visualize this smart little girl poking her curious nose into all sorts of activities. I loved her loyalty to her brother Jem and their good friend Dil.
Two people in the club liked the Finch’s housekeeper, as their favorite character. I could see their point because she had some of my favorite lines. She was also a good surrogate mother to Scout and Jem.
The heart of the novel was the story of Tom Robinson. It was so unfair and unjust. The story takes place in the mid-1930s and was based on a true story. A young white woman said that a black man raped her. He was arrested and stood trial. Even though it was only the woman’s word against the black man’s, he was convicted and put to death.
Scout’s father, Atticus Finch, was the lawyer assigned to defend the innocent Tom. The trial consumed the life of the family and the small town in southern Alabama. It was all grim. There were quite a few fun and quirky things that happened in the story as well as a good share of humor.
Our book club members spent a bit of time to talk about our own experiences helping with the civil rights movement in the 60s. I must say we have an amazing group of women in this club. But each one seems to take their accomplishments in stride. For them, it’s just something they did for a variety of reasons.
In my opinion, the main theme of the novel was a look at how life affects the innocents. That would be the children, Tom Robinson and his family, and to a certain extent, Boo Radly, the Finch’s elusive neighbor. With skillful writing the author took the story of injustice to innocents and presented it to the eyes of her innocent readers who could sympathize with the innocents. It worked. So many people became aware of situations similar to the Tom Robinson case and acted.
It should be no surprise to anyone that this book is consistently on the Banned Book List. This was Harper Lee’s only novel. She wrote a few essays but never another novel.
To Kill a Mockingbird made a meaningful contribution to our culture and literature when it came out in 1960. It won the Pulitzer in 1961. It stirred people up and made then take notice of how we were treating African Americans at the time – and not just in the South.
One other member and I listened to this book on audiobook. It was beautifully read by Sissy Spacek. Her southern accent and dramatic reading was perfect for the story.
If you haven’t read this book, please put it on your “must-read” list right this minute. It gets my highest recommendation.