sometimes witty book reviews
TW: mentions rape in context of plot discussion
I’ve been putting off doing a review of this particular book. What can I possibly add to the huge number of reviews, critiques and undergraduate essays this text has generated since it’s publication? Academically I can’t offer anything, review-wise I think everything was explained about two decades before I was born. What I can contribute though is my personal opinion on why this book continues to be a sensation today.
First the subject and it’s narrator. At the time of this book’s publication the wave of race-activism in the US was just about to break. There weren’t too many white people brave enough to lend their voices in support of ‘black issues’. There weren’t too many public forums in which rape could be discussed without being shut down. And then along came Harper Lee, an author (a woman!) who told a story of one lawyer’s moral integrity through the narrative voice of his daughter Scout – a child at the time that her father’s client, a black man, is accused of raping a white woman. The incomparable Scout goes through her own coming-of-age story as her father battles the prejudices his own race has imposed upon a legal system purported to be the path to justice.
Secondly, the social phenomenon. Despite limited distribution in the year of it’s publication, To Kill a Mockingbird was an instant sensation in literary circles and among the general public. It won the Pulitzer Prize and has been one of the most reprinted and widely read books of the century. The 1997 edition I have (pictured above) published by Arrow books was reprinted 42 times in 1987 alone. To add to this the author only ever published two books. The much anticipated and critically evaluated sequel Go Set a Watchman was released in 2015 only six months before Lee’s death. The text has become it’s own myth and is read now both for it’s still relevant subject matter and it’s legendary status is Western literary and social history.
Finally, To Kill a Mockingbird is a really well-written, thought provoking and intriguingly humorous read. In short, it’s a really good book.
Reading suggestion: If you can, avoid reading any reviews before you start.