Thursday, May 7, 2009

To Kill a Mockingbird (1960)

Harper Lee only wrote this one book and won the Pulitzer Prize for it. This is not the first time I've read this book and I'm sure I'll read it again since it is one of my all time favorite books.

Scout is another precocious girl (like Ilana in Davita's Harp) who lives in a small town in Alabama in the 1930s. She tells the story of how her father defended a black man who was charged with the rape of a white woman. One of the things that makes this book so special is her ability to absorb information gleaned from adult conversations and using the delicious tidbits only Southern people are capable of creating. The other amazing feature of this book is the insight into the Southern way of labeling each person according to their family name or race. There is no way that one can escape a reputation for drink, violence or any other fault shown by a relative generations before his own. And Scout's town is full of people who can trace their (and everyone else's) heritage back to when the white Europeans first moved into the area.

"You know something, Scout? I've got it all figured out, now. I've thought about it a lot lately and I've got it figured out. There's four kinds of folks in the world. There's the ordinary kind like us and the neighbors, there's the kind like the Cunninghams out in the woods, the kind like the Ewells down at the dump, and the Negroes."
"What about the Chinese, and the Cajuns down yonder in Baldwin County?"
"I mean in Maycomb County. The thing about it is, our kind of folks don't like the Cunninghams, the Cunninghams don't like the Ewells, and the Ewells hate and despise the colored folks."

Scout has the most wonderful sense of humor which is demonstrated when she describes people.

"Mr. Merriweather, a faithful Methodist under duress, apparently saw nothing personal in singing, 'Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wetch like me...'"

"Had I ever harbored the mystical notions about mountains that seem to obsess lawyers and judges, Aunt Alexandra would have been analogous to Mount Everest: throughout my early life, she was cold and there."

Harper Lee had a cousin, a well known author and remarkable character, Truman Capote. He was the model for Scout's friend, Dill, a boy who visited his aunt during the summer vacations. The trio of Scout, Dill, and Scout's brother, Jem, watch how the town behaves during and after the trial.

In addition to this being a Pulitzer Prize winning novel, the movie starring Gregory Peck, is also a winner having received three Oscars. The scene where Atticus walks out of the courtroom is one of the most powerful scenes I've ever seen.

This book is a must read for everyone.
My rating for this book: +++++ (plus one more for extraordinary).

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