Sunday, 6 December 2015

Review: To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

Title: To Kill a Mockingbird
Author: Harper Lee
Publisher: Arrow
Pages: 309
Genres: Classics, Historical Fiction

To Kill a Mockingbird

'Shoot all the Bluejays you want, if you can hit 'em, but remember it's a sin to kill a Mockingbird.'

A lawyer's advice to his children as he defends the real mockingbird of Harper Lee's classic novel - a black man charged with the rape of a white girl. Through the young eyes of Scout and Jem Finch, Harper Lee explores with exuberant humour the irrationality of adult attitudes to race and class in the Deep South of the thirties. The conscience of a town steeped in prejudice, violence and hypocrisy is pricked by the stamina of one man's struggle for justice. But the weight of history will only tolerate so much.
This timeless classic never entered my radar until adult life, and I think it would have resonated with me more if I had read it as a teenager.

The story needs no introduction as it is so well known, and is very hard to review. I feel like I should award it more stars then I did because it is so well beloved and has a powerful message about prejudice and injustice that is just as relevant to the contemporary reader as it ever was. I just didn't enjoy reading it all that much. The story is gothic, depressing and gritty but I found it to be far too slow moving and quite preachy in places.

The characters I found most interesting was Tom Robinson, Mayella Ewell and Calpurnia. The tiny snapshots of their lives that are described in this book was infinitely more interesting then pages of description about Scout, Jem and Dill's childhood. Mayella Ewell was so pitiable. In some ways I feel like Mayella was painted as so stereotypically villainous it did not feel real. There is a half sentence that hints at her father molesting her, but then no more is said about it.

There are many 'mockingbirds' in this story, so many victims of circumstance - the messages underpinning this classic are so powerful. Personally, the writing style and the way it was structured was not enjoyable for me and it felt very forced to keep picking it up just so I could finish it.


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