Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Harper Lee's To Kill a Mockingbird

I was a mere callow youth when I first read this classic nearly fifty years ago, so with the news of a second Harper Lee novel - a prequel or sequel - to be released mid-year I simply had to read it again. 

It truly is magnificent. How some literary sophisticates at the time (1960) denigrated it as a 'children's book' is beyond me. The social and psychological analysis of the South and its cultures during the depression years of the '30's, which is the book's core, is mature and sophisticated. The racist attitudes and prejudices of the barely literate white lower and middle classes are wonderfully realised. Their self-serving Christian nostrums brilliantly skewered. 

What struck me in this reading was the narrative's seamless interweaving of the young and adult Scout's voices. A sweet and sour mix that today we'd describe as modern and 'meta'. Of course there's lots of sentimentality, and the saintly Atticus is tedious and can do no wrong. His constant sermonising is off-putting. But put this down to the child Scout's telling. The darker threads of an older voice are there too.

Do yourself a favour and re-read this novel. 

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