Sunday, January 25, 2009

To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee (1961) - Review by Monique

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 unbias 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.

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.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Natalie's Progress through the Pulitizers

I've just ordered His Family by Ernest Poole (the first winner--1918) from the library. I've read in relatively recent years quite a few Pulitzer winners;

The Age of Innocence, So Big, The Good Earth and Gone with the Wind and that just gets me up to 1940.

I think my goal for reading in 2009 will be to try to read all of the Pulitzers that ended in the year 9:

The Magnificent Ambersons will be next (1919) followed by
Scarlet Sister Mary, 1929. I realize that some of these books may be impossible to find.

This looks like a great challenge!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Wendy's Books Read

UPDATE: January 3, 2009 - MY GOALS for 2009

My goal for 2009: 5 books from this list

  • The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, by Junot Diaz (winner 2008)
  • The Known World, by Edward P. Jones (winner 2004)
  • Empire Falls, by Richard Russo (winner 2002)
  • Interpreter of Maladies, by Jhumpa Lahiri (winner 2000)
  • American Pastoral, by Philip Roth (winner 1998)
  • The Stone Diaries, by Carol Shield (winner 1995)
  • A Thousand Acres, by Jane Smiley (winner 1992)
  • Breathing Lessons, by Anned Tyler (winner 1989)
  • Beloved, by Toni Morrison (winner 1988)
  • The Optimist’s Daughter, by Eudora Welty (winner 1973)
  • All The King’s Men, by Robert Penn Warren (winner 1947)
  • The Magnificent Ambersons, by Booth Tarkington (winner 1919)

Read in 2005:

1999-The Hours, by Michael Cunningham (unrated; not reviewed)
1994-The Shipping News, by Annie Proulx (rated 4/5; not reviewed)
1986-Lonesome Dove, by Larry McMurtry (rated 5/5; not reviewed)

Read in 2006:

2005-Gilead, by Marilyn Robinson (rated 2.5/5; not reviewed)
1921-The Age of Innocence, by Edith Wharton (rated 4.75/5; not reviewed)

Read in 2007:

2007-The Road, by Cormac McCarthy (completed May 17, 2007; rated 5/5; reviewed here)
2006-March, by Geraldine Brooks (completed April 3, 2007; rated 4/5; reviewed here)
2003-Middlesex, by Jeffrey Eugenides (completed November 1, 2007; rated 4.5/5; reviewed here)
1983-The Color Purple, by Alice Walker (completed January 12, 2007; rated 4.75/5; reviewed here)
1961-To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee (completed March 21, 2007; rated 5/5; reviewed here)
1940-The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck (completed January 18, 2007; rated 5/5; reviewed here)
1932-The Good Earth, by Pearl Buck (completed November 28, 2007; rated 4.5/5; reviewed here)
1928-The Bridge of San Luis Rey, by Thornton Wilder (completed December 23, 2007); rated 3/5; reviewed here)

Read in 2008:

1925-So Big, by Edna Ferber (completed January 17, 2008; rated 5/5; reviewed here)
1972-Angle of Repose, by Wallace Stegner (completed April 17, 2008; rated 5/5; reviewed here)

Friday, January 2, 2009

3M's Progress and Goals for 2009

After reading 12 Pulitzers in 2007, I only read one (Beloved) in 2008! [edit: I actually read two because I read the 2009 winner, Olive Kitteridge] I'm not happy with that result at all, so I'd like to commit to reading at least 6 titles in 2009. These are the leading contenders (bolded were read in 2009):
  • 2008 - The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
  • 2002 - Empire Falls (Russo)
  • 2001 - The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay (Chabon)
  • 2000 - Interpreter of Maladies (Lahiri)
  • 1992 - A Thousand Acres (Smiley)
  • 1989 - Breathing Lessons (Tyler)
  • 1987 - A Summons to Memphis (Taylor)
  • 1981 - A Confederacy of Dunces (Toole)
  • 1973 - The Optimist’s Daughter (Welty)
  • 1937 - Gone with the Wind (Mitchell)
  • 1936 - Honey in the Horn (Davis)
  • 1935 - Now in November (Johnson)
  • 1932 - The Good Earth (Buck)
  • 1926 - Arrowsmith (Lewis)
  • 1925 - So Big (Ferber)
  • 1921 - The Age of Innocence (Wharton)

Progress so far:
2008 - Olive Kitteridge
2008 - The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
2007 - The Road
2006 - March
2005 - Gilead (read in 2006)
2004 - The Known World
2003 - Middlesex
1999 - The Hours
1998 - Beloved
1995 - The Stone Diaries
1994 - The Shipping News
1983 - The Color Purple
1972 - Angle of Repose
1961 - To Kill a Mockingbird
1958 -
A Death in the Family
1953 -
The Old Man and the Sea (read in 2002)
1940 -
The Grapes of Wrath (read in 1985)
1928 - The Bridge of San Luis Rey