Friday, February 25, 2011
To Kill a Mockingbird
I'd been wanting to read this book for awhile, as it is very well-known and always near the top of the best book lists. I've read and seen a few books and films recently, with the theme of racism, particularly set in the American Deep South.
In this book, set in the 1930s, a young girl, known as Scout, and her brother Jem, share their childhood adventures involving, in particular, two issues. One, is that in their street there is a mysterious house with a neighbour who is never seen, and two, their father is the defense lawyer for a negro who allegedly raped a white girl. The children are obsessed with getting a glimpse of their neighbour, Arthur 'Boo' Radley, and wonder why he stays indoors. The townspeople are in uproar that their father, Atticus Finch, is defending a negro, but when you read about the case, you realise why he believes Tom Robinson is innocent.
It is more than halfway through the book before your get to the court scenes, which are the highlight of the novel, and before then, Lee paints a vivid picture of the town, Maycomb, the family, and the townsfolk. We learn of the strong bond between the two children, and we see Jem change as he becomes a teenager.
The first half of the book steadily builds the characters and setting, and the second half, about the courtcase and its consequences, is riveting, and cleverly weaves the two main issues of the book together.
This is a powerful story about racism and prejudice, judgments and cultural brainwashing.
(Trivia: I had never realised until I googled Boo Radley, that Robert Duvall played the part in the film!)