There probably are very few Americans that have not a least heard about Harper Lee's "To Kill A Mockingbird". I don't recall when I first heard about this book but I remember hearing about it some point in my life. It wasn't required reading for me in high school and since I was not one to voluntarily read classics in high school this book got overlooked.
I feel robbed. My high school English teachers felt that it was more important to assign such boring books as "Ethan Frome" but left "To Kill A Mockingbird" out, shame on them. I am not going to classify this book as a page turner, but it was almost there. The last 100 or so pages I couldn't stop reading.
The story is told in first person and the narrator is a young child by the name of Scout. Now, there are so many directions that Lee could have taken with her creation of Scout. But she decided that she would be highly advanced for a child (in the book she is between the ages of 6 and 8), and this is good. Because the reader get not only to see how Scout develops but also gets a look into her thought process and how she tackles some of the complicated adult issues she has to face. Sometimes I forgot that this story was being told through the eyes of a child.
The language in the story was both simple and complex. Every now and than Lee would through in a SAT word (at least that was what I called them in high school) but they were perfectly in context with the story and did not distract from the flow. In fact they helped illustrated and remind the reader that Scout is a child.
Now to the storyline. Even though this book was published in the 1960's and takes place in the 1930's the subject matter is still relevant to today. The struggle for equality in legal system, prejudice, and class. All these issues come up in the book and Lee handles them well, maybe because she does it from the unbiased eyes of a child.
This book as been criticized for the use of the "N" word but I think that it is appropriate because first it is a historical fiction novel and second that was reality back in the time frame of the story. The only time that my eyebrow raised was when I reached the following passage on page 118:
"The warm bittersweet smell of clean Negro welcomed us as we entered the churchyard..."
I have no idea what that means. Bittersweet smell and clean.... I am lost. But otherwise a solid well written book.
Pros: Characters, Subject Matter, Language
Overall Recommendation: You haven't read it, yet? What's taking you so long? Check it out at the library or buy it.