Monday, August 30, 2010

Thoughts on To Kill A Mockingbird

Hope is the Word hosted a reading challenge this month to mark the 50th anniversary of the publishing of Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird. When I joined up, I was hoping to read the novel, watch the movie version, and peruse the CliffsNotes.

I ended up listening to an unabridged audio version of the novel, read by Sissy Spacek, as the printed version never did come in at the library. I guess I wasn't the only person in Montana interested in reading it, this month.

I thoroughly enjoyed the story though, which was a pleasant surprise. When I signed up for the challenge, I didn't know anything about Harper Lee, or her novel, except that it was one of the American classics I had missed out on by attending high school in Canada I did read a good deal by Margaret Atwood, though. After flipping through the CliffsNotes, which arrived before the audio book, I wasn't so sure I wanted to read the story, about a black man falsely accused of rape, in a southern town.

I was happy to discover, that the novel is about so much more. In fact if anything, it reminded me of Beverly Cleary, with a backdrop of Mark Twain. It's the innocence of childhood, set in an imperfect, and often unpleasant world.

My mother grew up in the 30's in a small, southern, town, and so much of what Miss Lee wrote, reminds me of her reminiscences. I think maybe, her family would have been the Cunninghams in the book, the poor farmers, who sent their children to school barefoot, and never took what they couldn't repay, in one way, or another.

I asked my mother if she'd read the book. I was curious how she thought it matched up to her own childhood. But she answered very quickly, she had never read it, that in fact she'd, "seen enough of that kind of ugliness, growing up, and didn't care to read about it." I took that to mean the darker parts of the story are pretty well on the mark, too.

I have read that Harper Lee approved of the screenplay adaption of her novel. I thought a lot of the heart of the story was left behind in the book, and found the movie on the creepy side. But, even so, it's hard not to like Gregory Peck.

Overall, I'm very happy to have been introduced to To Kill A Mockingbird. The prose is easy, but involving. If it weren't for the adult content of the crime in question, it could be a children's novel.

I think what I enjoyed about it most, was the realization, that while Harper Lee's picture of childhood in America, matches my mother's, mine is closer to Beverly Cleary's, with the Mark Twain removed - and I think, that promises some hope for the future.

It's great to be a homeschooler.


  1. You've reminded me of how much I miss listening to audio books. This one sounds lovely! I'm adding it to my to-do list!

  2. I remember reading this book once. I made the same comparisons with both my Mom and Dad's family as you did with your Mom.

  3. I also missed out on reading this. Thanks for your thoughts on it, much appreciated. I think I will add it to my list now.

  4. To Kill a Mockingbird is one of my favorite books. It is beautifully written. I have never seen the movie though.

  5. here's a list of reading suggestions if you like to read:
    1. flowers for algernon
    2. fahrenheit 451
    3. 1984
    4. confederacy of dunces
    5. water for elephants

    these are five of my favorites :)

  6. This was one of my favorite books from my High School required reading...I love small town stories, especially ones that have such strong characters.

    Another favorite of mine is "Cold Sassy Tree"...

  7. At some point I will break down and read that book. For some reason I never have.

  8. I think you said it really well here:

    "If it weren't for the adult content of the crime in question, it could be a children's novel."

    I was reading your thoughts here (very unique perspective you have, having gone to school in Canada!) and you mentioned the crime the book sort of revolves around and I thought to myself, "WHAT?! THAT was in there!"

    Because the book is so well written and because the book is about "so much more" as you said, you don't fixate on the crime. The other characters and their reactions become the whole story to me and I just enjoyed it from beginning to end!

    Fascinating story. (I, too, meant to watch the movie but only got as far as reading the book!)

  9. I don't think it comes as a big surprise that To Kill A Mockingbird (translated, of course) was a required reading in Soviet schools. We only read American novels without happy endings. Still, I reread it in English and really liked it. In fact, it's one of my favorite 20th century classics of American literature.

  10. Just saw Flowers of Algernon on the suggested reading list. Fortunately it's a sci-fi. Very powerful and very sad. I did like all the books on that list, but they are all so-so dark.

  11. It's funny that you mention that you missed out on this book, since you attended high school in Canada. I grew up in British Columbia (Canada), and it was part of our required reading in Grade Six (we watched the movie in class too). It just depends on the individual teacher and school district, I suppose. It is a fantastic book though, and definitely one I'd classify as a must read.

  12. Anonymous - Interesting. We didn't read any of the American authors, that I can remember.

  13. I'm so glad you finally discovered this classic. It was one of those rare books I had to read in High School that I absolutely fell in love with. It's simply a beautiful story.

  14. Oh, I'm just so glad you joined in the challenge!!!

    I love the comparison between TKM and Cleary's and Twain's works/voices. So right!