To Kill a Mockingbird
First sentence: When he was thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm broken badly at the elbow.
Reflections: Harper Lee's Pulitzer prizewinner is such a classic; the plot is well-known and there's probably not a person who will read this review that hasn't already read this book. I read it as a teenager, but I did so on my own and didn't have the benefit of group discussion to enhance my understanding of the themes and issues explored in this work. Dana over at So many books, so little time re-reads TKAM every year and that got me thinking. Along comes Maggie Reads' Southern Reading Challenge, and I had an excuse to bring this one out from the dusty shelves.
Je ne regrette rien. What a powerful book. I immediately became absorbed in the main characters -- Jem, Scout, Atticus, and Calpurnia -- as well as some of the townspeople and neighbors. I fell easily into the tales of carefree childhood summers, pretend play, and "spooky" reclusive neighbors. I could feel the warm summer evenings and the year-round temperate Alabama climate. But then, wham!, I was hit with the small-mindedness, hatred, and racism:
"Cry about the simple hell people give other people--without even thinking. Cry about the hell white people give colored folks, without even stopping to think that they're people, too." (p. 229)
Through brilliant prose, Harper Lee vividly tells the story of a black man on trial for raping a white woman, Atticus' inner strength and determination, the injustice done to the defendant, the varying reactions of the townspeople, and the subsequent events in which justice is finally served. I'd forgotten how the book got its title, and when I read this part of the book, I found it so apt:
"Mockingbirds don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy ... they don't do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird." (p. 103)
If you haven't read this book, you should. And if you have, you should re-read it -- you'll learn something new every time.
Original review can be found here.