To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1960)
[Crime: Classics/Historical Fiction/Young Adult]
“Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.”
I discovered this novel about ten years too late according to the recommended age rating. I decided to go and stay with my aunt in Kent this spring, to get away from the madness of home life and try to revise for my exams in peace. Apparently, changes of scenery don’t do much to my academic neurones and I ended up reading away those two weeks, which isn’t the worst way to spend a fortnight.
Sarah Crown from the Guardian calls the novel an “indelible tale of race, family and lost innocence” and says:
“Slowly, indolently, the layers of childhood minutiae are peeled back to reveal the crisis at the novel’s heart: a black man has been accused of raping a white woman. As Scout’s father, Atticus, sets out to defend him, the depth of the town’s prejudices is revealed. A classic depiction of coming-of-age.”
I don’t know how many coming-of-age novels I have to read before I finally decide to come-of-age but despite the consequences (or lack thereof) To Kill a Mockingbird is one of those rare things that embeds itself in the back of your mind, becoming part of the lens through which you see the world.
As I raced through the chapters that Easter Sunday, completely oblivious to my picturesque view of the sun shining for the first time this year and then setting over the freezing North Sea coast, I had my own revelation. I had spent so many years idolising the Elizabeth Bennetts and Hermione Grangers of the fictional world, completely ignorant of the existence of Scout.
I now consider Scout Finch the greatest heroine of all time. Maybe it’s because she’s a child so her values – bravery, loyalty, justice, equality – can be so beautifully absolute in a way that an adult’s isn’t
Admittedly, the book did bring out the daddy issues a bit – the fact that Atticus Finch is not my father is inconsolable. Oh well, I’ll just have to find a husband exactly like him.
“The one thing that doesn’t abide by majority rule is a person’s conscience.”