It’s taken me a while but finally this is the first of my Sunday Classic features. I’ve set myself the goal of reading one classic novel a month and posting my thoughts on it. I’m hoping to widen my reading a bit beyond young adult, fantasy and romance and read some of those books considered classics. First up…
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
I thought a good one to start off would be To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. This is pretty topical at the moment as it seems like everyone is reading it but believe it or not that wasn’t why I chose it. My reason was that it worked for a challenge I was doing and I found, and stole it from my parents house while they were away on holiday (don’t tell them). For once this meant I read an actual book (pictured right) and not an electronic one. Something I haven’t done in a while.
So, in addition to the theft of it from my parents house I have a couple of other confessions about this book. Firstly, I’d never read it. It seems at the moment like everyone is going on about how much they loved it when they were younger, how it influenced their life and changed them but I’d never had any inclination. To make things worse it turns out this is my father’s favourite book of all time. Based on that alone I probably should have read it sooner.
My second confession is that I almost gave up after three pages. I found it so difficult to understand the language in those first few pages I was tempted to chuck it and go find something easier for the challenge. I had no idea what was going on, who was telling the story or what half of the words actually meant. (This is the part where I probably did miss my kindle. It makes life so much easier to just highlight a word and get it’s meaning.) However, I did stick with it and read to the end and I’m kind of glad I did.
It turns out it was not at all what I expected. I haven’t seen the film so knew very little about it. I was expecting some kind of courtroom drama from the point of view of Atticus Finch. I didn’t realise the whole story was told from the point of view of his young daughter Scout and is more of a social commentary of the time than a courtroom drama (although there is a bit of that).
The whole thing gave such an incredible picture of life, growing up in that very different time with the social hierarchy that was just seen and accepted as the norm. Despite the different country, time and attitudes it felt like there were still a lot of similarities to when I was at school. There was that family who no one wanted anything to do with (something I feel guilty about now), we had a boy who just never came to class and I can remember playing in the street outside my home every evening and weekend until it got dark or we were called in for dinner.
I did love Scout. She is not the most reliable of narrators as you don’t always know everything that is going on and it feels like you miss some important things. However you can’t help but like her. She knows her own mind and just wants to be friends with everyone. She treats everyone the same and just doesn’t recognise the differences. In some ways she seems older than her age and the well thought out arguments with her father over why she shouldn’t have to go to school were hilarious. She isn’t afraid to say what she thinks and has a strong sense of right and wrong from her father Atticus.
Atticus is a likeable character and despite being a little distant seems to do a pretty good job of raising his two children. He comes across as wise, fair and more observant than Scout and her brother Jem believe. He’s obviously not happy about being landed with defending a black man accused of attacking a white woman but he does fight for what’s right even though he knows it’s a losing battle.
The scenes in the courtroom were some of the most gripping in the book and it is shocking how a group of people can destroy someone’s life based on their prejudices.
Overall I am glad I finally got round to reading it. The language was a struggle throughout and there are still parts I didn’t follow but I can understand why my Dad loves it so much.
Favourite quote from the book:
“With him, life was routine; without him, life was unbearable.”