|Purchase: Amazon | Chapters|
Genre: Modern Classics
Start Date: June 18, 2011
Finished Date: June 25, 2011 (7 days)
Where Found: Campus bookstore--just to have a copy on hand
Why Read: I initially read this in high school, then decided to re-read it for a challenge.
Read For: Back to the Classics Challenge (4/8)
Summary: A coming-of-age story set in the Depression-era American South revolves around two precocious children of a lawyer defending a black man against the charge of raping a white woman and a number of eccentric neighbours, including a hermetic scrounger nicknamed "Boo" Radley.
I have never read a book again so many years in between my first reading of it. I first read To Kill a Mockingbird in my Grade 11 English class. I remember struggling with the first half of the book, wondering when the story would come around to the trial, which was the key focus of the book's summary. There was not much said about how the first half masterfully sets the stage for the second half. Also, there was no patience in my 16-year-old self. Fast-forward about a decade later and here I am reading the book again, wanting the first half to never end! Maybe it was because childhood was still raw in my teenage memory and now it's reduced to nostalgia, which is the framework for the first half of TKAM but is far from sugar-coated.
Scout, Jem, and Dill are complex, fascinating children that are more challenging to comprehend than the adult characters. Harper Lee not only understands children's motives, feelings, and interpretations of adult situations, often hilariously rendered, but she makes a distinct period of history in which these children grow up a purposeful part of their development. A multi-faceted turning point in American history represents their growth, as well as the nation's.
It was a delight to read this book again and feel much more appreciative of Lee's representation of children, now read through my adult & teacher lens rather than teenager & student one. It was amazing how much of the first half came back in the second and played an important part but for a new purpose in light of the trial. The shift in how characters are understood changes considerably from an assumed nature to a more complicated one.
It has been a long while since I saw the movie adaptation with Gregory Peck, which I first saw in that high school class. It was a highly respectful interpretation of the book, very loyal to the original novel. I thought Peck was a perfect Atticus Finch with his sharp foresight, deep patience, and calm, peaceful presence.
The bottom line is that every human being needs to experience this book. I think it is wise to introduce it when learning about civil rights history in school, but should be read as an adult as well to remind yourself of childhood wonders, frustrations, and understandings.
Here is the short TKAM review from my Harking Back series of posts about books read in school. It's interesting to note that I also read Inherit the Wind, a terrific play about the Scopes trial that ties in to themes of TKAM, making it a great companion read.
Rank: (A+)- One of the greatest books ever written