Monday, April 07, 2008

To Kill a Mockingbird

The second post I had planned for yesterday just didn't pan out. Daisy did her best Devil Dog impression all day yesterday, so I didn't have more than a few minutes to myself for reading. By the time I got to bed last night I could barely hold my eyes open, so I was forced to put off the last thirty pages of To Kill a Mockingbird until this morning.

It seems rather pointless to "review" such a timeless and beloved American classic. It's really astounding just how many people have read this book, and of that majority, how many people truly love it. For example, my first morning class is full of students who generally seem uninterested in everything we do. It could have something to do with meeting at 8am. Imagine my surprise when this otherwise quiet and withdrawn group saw my copy of To Kill a Mockingbird and launched into stories of reading it in school and how much they loved it.

Likewise, my very best friend growing up and to this day is not a reader. She's a self-proclaimed hater of reading, in fact. However, To Kill a Mockingbird is close to her heart. Her favorite book. A fond reading memory out of all the horrible ones she recalls.

So many factors contributed to my avoiding this book until now --the general hype, having seen the movie a zillion times, my avoidance of Southern fiction dealing with issues of race (seems so often poorly or overdone). It all just seemed like I would be disappointed. I hated to waste my time reading a book that I figured would just let me down. I didn't want the hype to make this one just "another book."

I'm so thrilled to say that this book lived up to everyone's recommendations and completely blew my expectations out of the water. Harper Lee's writing is just as enigmatic and compelling as her persona. The highlight of the book is most definitely the memorable characters. Atticus, Jem, and especially Scout are incredibly endearing and well rounded. I loved Scout's mischievous nature and natural sweetness and goodness. She's really a hoot. Beating up boys, stalking the Radley house, and generally getting into trouble.

Aside from the great characters, the book is genuinely wonderfully written. The action builds slowly allowing the reader to really sink into the setting, get to know the characters, and learn about the harshness and unfairness of 1930s Southern life right along with Scout and Jem.

I always say that any great and truly memorable book has the power to move me to tears, and this one is no exception. I'm tickled to join the ranks of people who consider To Kill a Mockingbird one of their all-time favorite books.

What to read next?? It's a tough act to follow.

I have to thank Kristy. When she heard I hadn't read this book several months ago, she kindly sent a copy along to me to give me a boost. Likewise, I have to thank Heather F. and CdnReader for MAKING ME READ IT! They've been after me for YEARS (really, years) to read this book. As usual, they were right!

Note: My 3rd book for the 2008 TBR Challenge.

18 comments:

  1. I always have a book with me, or nearly so, when I go out to do errands. Never does anyone comment on the book I have. I think one of the few times someone asked or said something about a book was when I was reading To Kill a Mockingbird--I was at the bank and the teller commented on it. That tells you something. I think it is one of the few books read and enjoyed by a large variety of people. I really need to reread it sometime.

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  2. It's really an amazing book. I read it in high school. Then my book club picked it and I didn't want to read it. I remembered liking it but thought I didn't want to read it again. I'm glad I did. I got so much more out of it as an adult.

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  3. I'm SO Glad you liked it! It is truly my very favorite book. One of the very few I've re-read. And I still cry when I read it, or watch the movie. Atticus Finch is one of the greatest literary characters ever to grace the pages of any novel!

    "They're certainly entitled to think that, and they're entitled to full respect for their opinions... but before I can live with other folks I've got to live with myself. The one thing that doesn't abide by majority rule is a person's conscience"....Atticus Finch

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  4. I really need to reread this one. I have fond memories of it when I read it back in high school, but all this recent talk about it has me craving another go at it. As an instructor (and reader/writer), I imagine it's especially thrilling to see the light go on in people's eyes and to hear the discussions the erupt over this book.

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  5. I'm sure that one of the reasons I haven't read this is all the hype surrounding it, but I'm beginning to see that I shall have to get over this.
    By the way, I'm going to take your comment about 8.00am classes into my Wednesday group who always complain about having a 9.00am lecture. it might quieten them down.

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  6. I am really pleased you enjoyed this. I thought it was wonderful last year, but am not sure it would make my top twenty. There are so many great books out there to choose from...

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  7. It really is a tough act to follow.

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  8. When you say that Southern writers addressing issues of race seem overdone, it reminds me of people who read Jane Eyre and say, "Oh another boring, run of the mill, cliched romance novel." Sometimes the real deal, the thing that came first, is so prevalent, so spread through all our pop culture that it seems trite or imitative to us because we've heard its echoes all our lives. I don't know if you were saying that, but I wonder if now, having read this, you'll see nods to it everywhere.

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  9. Danielle, I keep one close at all times, too, and very rarely do I get comments. TKaM is certainly the book that's gotten the most unsolicited feedback from students and others.

    Chris, it's definitely one I'll re-read and often.

    Love that quote, Stephanie. And, yes, Atticus certainly is one of the best characters. I fell in love with Scout even moreso. More than I expected to, I guess.

    :D, CdnReader!

    Wendy, you're exactly right. It made me smile to hear my students erupt into stories about the book. I only hope something they read in my class sticks like that! :)

    LOL, Ann! Give my best to your 9am class. And I think you would adore this book.

    Rhinoa, it is hard to choose, isn't it? I'm not sure where it would fall in the hierarchy of my favorites. After numbers one and two (The Lord of the Rings and The Great Gatsby) everything sort of melds together in rank.

    Amen, Nymeth!

    Dewey, I don't think it's trite at all. I was *afraid* I would feel that way. Growing up in the south I read so many of that type of book that they sort of started to melt together and lose their respective identities. I certainly held out hope that this one would be the original that sent shockwaves throughout all the others, and that's turned out to be the case. I'm sure I will see plenty of references to it now that I've read it...even more than I saw before. And I can appreciate those references on a whole new level.

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  10. I'm sorry to say I've never read this myself and for reasons I can't quite fathom. Your wonderful reviews (would find another word if I could!) make me think I really should give it a go.

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  11. Litlove, most definitely try it. I think you would adore it!

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  12. Now if I can only get you to read The Princess Bride...

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  13. LOL, I'll put it on the list. I don't own a copy of that one. BookMooch, here I come!

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  14. I am so glad you weren't disappointed. I know the fear of being disappointed when everyone else loves a book. It's a book I could read over and over again.

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  15. Kristy, it's certainly one I'll read over and over, too. Love it!

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  16. Wait. Let me see if I have this right. You hadn't read "TKaM" until just recently?

    Wow.

    Just. Wow. I thought you weren't allowed to graduate high school until you've read it. :)

    I'm glad you liked it, though. I find it kinda weird that Lee never wrote anything else.

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  17. I know this is an old post, but I just had to say how much I enjoyed reading a review of this book by an adult first-time-reader! I had not read it in years and I had to teach it as part of a fiction unit to my 8th graders and I read it along with them, and I fell in love with the story. I don't remember LOVING it in high school, but I do as an adult. I always had my students review the book, and many times, I have been told that TKaM is the first book they have read from start to finish. :o)

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