Of course, the first on this list has to be ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ by Harper Lee.
This is a book that has sat on my bookshelf since I was in my 20’s. I have had several different copies of it and I read and re-read it at least every couple of years.
It is beyond me to truly encapsulate this book. There is no way I could do justice to the depth and beauty of this book.
I love the gentleness, humanity and thoughtfulness of it. It is told in a child’s voice but with an adult’s understanding of the experiences of this child.
Who could not love Scout, Jem and Atticus, so truthfully brought to life by the film starring Gregory Peck, who will always symbolize Atticus for me.
And the relationship between Scout and Jem is realistic and warm. And Atticus the moral, sincere and compassionate father.
I love the part where Scout is having problems adjusting to school, particularly when she is told that Atticus should not be teaching her to read and so Atticus makes a “compromise” with her.
“If you’ll concede the necessity of going to school, we’ll go on reading every night just as we always have.”
The book explores complex issues in the small American country town of the South in the depression years of the 1930’s.
The poverty and hardship of those in the town is described with empathy.
It also deals with the racism of the American South of the 1930’s with tragic results – and Atticus’ attempt to challenge this racism.
There have so many outstanding and poignant moments:
– When Scout turns back the lynch mob by recognising one of the mob:
“Hey Mr. Cunningham. How’s your entailment gettin’ along?”
– The moment when Tom Robinson says he feels sorry for a poor white girl – his undoing for no African American can feel above a white person
“…a quiet, respectable, humble Negro who had the unmitigated temerity to ‘feel sorry’ for a white woman…”
– And the scene when the Court case is over. Tom Robinson has been found guilty.
“Miss Jean Louise, stand up. Your father’s passin’.” As the whole of the African American in the balcony stand as he walks out.
And who can forget the pivotal role of Boo Radley – their reclusive neighbour who is initially feared as the ‘bogey’ man but who ends up protecting and saving the children –
“Neighbours bring food with death and flowers with sickness and little things in between. Boo was our neighbour. He gave us two soap dolls, a broken watch and chain, a pair of good-luck pennies, and our lives.”
And Scout fully understands the need to protect him from public scrutiny.
“Well, it’d be sort of like shootin’ a mockingbird, wouldn’t it?”
“Atticus was right. One time he said you never really know a man until you stand in his shoes and walk around in them. Just standing on the Radley porch was enough.”