Review of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird.’

As part of my holiday reading, I said I was going to read ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ followed by ‘Go Set a Watchman.’  Well, as I have just finished ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ I thought I would share my thoughts.

For those who don’t know the story, it is told through the eyes of Scout, a young 8 year old girl who lives with her brother Jem and her father Atticus Finch, in the town of Maycomb in Alabama.   Atticus is a lawyer and a very upright, moral and caring man.  We don’t know anything about their mother, other than that she is dead and Scout doesn’t remember much about her at all.   Atticus is the lynchpin of the family and although strict, shows great affection and love to his two children.  Atticus is called on to defend Tom Robinson, a black man, who is accussed of raping a girl, Mayella Ewell.   Meanwhile Scout, Jem and their friend Dill, who visits during the summer, are obsessed with childish games and trying to see Boo Radley, the mysterious man who lives down their street, but never appears in public.  As the case of Tom Robinson goes to court, Scout, Jem and Dill are to find their innocence shattered forever and their lives caught up in the evil ways of certain people in their society.

Re-reading this book confirmed for me why Harper Lee is such a phenomenon and why this Pulitzer Prize winning novel is so popular.   The voice of Scout is perfectly pitched.  The novel is full of humour, acute observations about the human spirit and how sincere goodness in a person can have a profound impact on individuals in a society.

I adore the character of Atticus Finch.  A loving father and an upstanding member of society, he quotes some of the most memorable lines of the book such as:

“First of all,” he said, “if you can learn a simple trick, Scout, you’ll get along a lot better with all kinds of folks. You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view […] until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

During the court case, Atticus shows up the deep racism that exists and how the judgement of a man because of the colour of his skin is entirely wrong.  He is calm, composed and articulate, but he is also realistic, and seems to me almost resigned to the racism that exists in this small town.   For me, Atticus is a hero.  He never falters and in a cynical world he is someone we can all have faith in.

It was revelatory to read this wonderful novel again.  So many themes to consider, great characters and an engrossing story make this one of my favourite reads of the year.  To anyone who has never read it, I say, do yourself a favour and read it now.   It is a classic for a good reason.

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Review of ‘The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry’ by Gabrielle Zevin

This book was recommended to me and having read it, I am delighted I listened and decided to make it a book club choice.  The story revolves around the life of a man, A.J. Fikry, who runs a book shop on an island near Hyannis in Massachusetts.  His bookshop is not doing particularly well and he is a bit of a literary snob, so he isn’t great at catering for the masses or indeed making an effort to sell them what they might like. He is at an exceptionally low point in his life when we first meet him.  He is grieving the loss of his wife, who tragically died two years previously. He is drinking too much and he is pretty much one step away from a breakdown.  Only for the support and love of his sister in law, Ismay, he would be sunk.  Life goes from bad to worse, when the only valuable item he owns, a first edition copy of  Edgar Allen Poe’s ‘Tamerlane’ is stolen one night when he is in a drunken stupor.   We forget about this during the telling of the rest of the story, but there is a twist which we are to discover later. We then meet the second main character of the story, Amelia, who is the sales rep for a book company.  When she first meets A.J, he is exceptionally rude to her and it seems they are doomed never to get along.  However as the story develops, so too does their relationship.  But it is when an abandoned baby called Maya is left in his bookstore that A.J.’s life really changes.

There are moments of tragedy and joy throughout the story, as we follow the lives of A.J., Maya, Amelia and the people surrounding them, such as Daniel, the smug self satisfied writer who is married to A.J’s sister-in-law, Ismay.  Their story is secondary to the story of A.J., Amelia and Maya, but is no less interesting for that.

This book for me was a complete joy from start to finish.  The story is told with humour, warmth and a touching sincerity.  It’s all about books, so if you are a bookworm, then it should definitely warm your heart.  I would describe this as the perfect holiday read.  It is lighthearted, takes next to no concentration to read, and leaves you with a warm fuzzy feeling.    Zevin’s gift is in her ability to make  you fall in love with the characters, and to feel empathy for A.J. and also Amelia.  You are plugging for them from the start (well I was anyway).   The author also introduces other interesting characters, such as Chief Lambiase, who again, is one of those people you just can’t help but like.  The story portrays life on a small island as idyllic, with a close knit community who all know your business, but are there to support you.  At times for me, the story was a little ‘too’ perfect, but it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of it.   I particularly liked the book recommendations for Maya at the beginning of every chapter, and indeed made a note of a couple of the books to read myself!

I would highly recommend this book as a lighthearted, warm, funny, ideal holiday read.   If you love books and bookshops, it may also just make you want to go and open one!

Winner of Free Book!

As promised, I would like to announce that the winner of the best blog comment during the last month goes to Clare Hawken, for her comment on ‘H is for Hawk.’  One of the main joys of doing this blog, is that someone may be inspired to pick up a book that they wouldn’t normally read, so for that Clare, you are a winner!

I am also giving away two books to my two most loyal followers who have supported this blog since it’s inception, and for that I thank them most humbly! So Kim and Corinne, you will also be getting a copy of the paperback version of the book next time I see you.   I know you cannot contain your excitement, but please try!!

Please scroll on down to the next blog post which is about August’s book club and the new Harper Lee release.

Anticipation ahead of Harper Lee book release

I read ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ when I was about 15.  I think that is the case, although I honestly can’t remember exactly what age I was.  What I do remember is how much I loved the book.  And I mean loved.    However I haven’t ever re-read it, and I can’t honestly explain why that is the case.  God knows, I have watched the film too many times to admit.   I think the book is better though, as books usually are.  I just have a thing for Gregory Peck!

Anyway, I am counting the days until her new (!) book ‘Go Set a Watchman,’ is released and we don’t have long to wait.  14th July!

Go Set a WatchmanGo Set a Watchman by Harper Lee.

I found all the controversy surrounding the release of the book slightly disconcerting.  I so hope the lady wasn’t taken advantage of.  I like to think she retains some of the spirit I saw her character display in the film Capote.    Well, whatever the truth is, I hope she can at least raise a glass to how much the public loved her characters, and cannot wait to read more!   So on my holidays I will have a copy of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ and ‘Go Set a Watchman.’   I will be reading one after the other and enjoying every second of it.  I shall report back on my return.  I would love it, if you are a fan, if you read both and then we could compare notes!   The other book club choice for August is ‘The Girl on The Train.’ by Paula Hawkins which you can find out more about on The Monthly Book Club page.