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Saturday, December 22, 2007

Reader's Diary #318- Harper Lee: To Kill A Mockinbird (FINISHED)

Sigh of relief!

As the last person on Earth to read To Kill A Mockingbird, it was more than a little intimidating-- especially when I've not heard one single bad thing about it.

All I'd known was that it had something to do with the black/white divide and usually gets listed as one of (if not the) best American novels.

First off. I absolutely loved it. It's not often that a book compels me to edit my favourite books on my profile page.

Second, I was surprised how well I could relate to Maycomb, the small town Alabama setting. As I've said many times, outport Newfoundland, where I grew up, must be one of the whitest places in the world. We didn't have a history of slavery (though our track record with the Beothuks is appalling), and because there always seemed to be more people moving out than in, it was only the occasional doctor that let us know that different races didn't just exist on t.v.. So, while I anticipated a tale of troubled race relations, I didn't really think I'd connect to it.

I think Lee's story is as about how we, as human beings, tend to look for ways to distance ourselves from others; making trivial differences more important than they actually are. While most of us may have been the same colour in my hometown, people still found ways to divide-- some of which is also explored in To Kill A Mockingbird (i.e., class, gender, age, religion, etc). While it's true colour wasn't much of an issue where I lived, Lee made me believe it was just a matter of circumstance.

I'm not going to embarrass myself or waste my time further by reviewing a book that practically everyone else has already studied and praised, but I do want to end by saying how impressed I was that such a philosophical book could have been packaged into such a simple story. I know "deceptively simple" is a phrase that gets tossed around a lot, but when a writer is able to make me question humanity without relying on gimmickry or experimental devices, there's a lot to be said for her talent. I am in awe.

13 comments:

Barbara Bruederlin said...

It really is a landmark book, isn't it? One would think that it is a long way from the sensibilities of the American south to outport Newfoundland, but perhaps not. Human frailties are pretty universal.

Dale said...

Such an amazing book and I would have been surprised if you didn't love it.

Happy Holidays Mr. Mutford and family.

Allison said...

This is one of my favourite books of all time. I'm with Dale, I would have been very surprised, and would have disagreed greatly if you hadn't lvoed it. :)

Happy Holidays!

Chris said...

Congrats on finally reading it! It really is a great book.

Framed said...

I just read it for the first time last year with the same trepidation that you mentioned. Like you, I loved it and now understand the universal accolades.

cj said...

Ah, John, welcome to the club.

It is, hands down, my favorite book.

cjh

Dewey said...

Oh, I'm so glad you loved it! This is probably my most-often reread books. I think I've always had a little crush on Atticus!

John Mutford said...

Barbara: It wasn't just the frailties I found similar. Also the way Scout played with her brother reminded me very much of my childhood.

Dale: I'm been known to be cranky on some other well-loved books! Happy holidays to you too!

Allison: I'm glad we see eye to eye. Happy Christmas (as they say on your side of the pond.)

Chris: Why, thank you!

Framed: It's one of those that you fear there's been too much hype, for sure.

Cj: I can see why.

Dewey: Atticus is a hero for sure. I found it remarkable that Lee made him believable, yet near flawless (arguably).

Susan said...

This is one of my favourite books too. I read it as a teenager, and have to go back and reread it again now (this is the joy of books, that we can reread them many times and still enjoy them as much as the first time). I loved it. I'm so glad you do too. And as to your comments on how the book relates to you in Newfoundland as well as Athens Georgia - I think that is what makes this book bigger than its setting - what makes a book great - it transcends its setting and becomes a book that speaks to a reader anywhere in the world. It is a book that changes the world by reading it, enlarges our connection to the world, I think. Happy reading in 2008, John!

poodlerat said...

Not quite the last, I'm sorry to admit.

This must truly be an amazing book. Not only because it's one of the most-praised books in the English language, but because despite it coming up in dozens of conversations, I have yet to meet a single person who's read it and thought it was less than brilliant. I don't think that's true about any other book ever written---certainly none I can think of.

I'd better get reading!

John Mutford said...

Susan: I think I'll reread it sometime too.

Poodlerat: Yay, I wasn't the last. The Harper estate will be glad to hear they still have a customer waiting.

Dewey said...

Poodlerat really has a point. I can't think of anyone who didn't love it, either!

SmallWorld Reads said...

"While most of us may have been the same colour in my hometown, people still found ways to divide-- some of which is also explored in To Kill A Mockingbird (i.e., class, gender, age, religion, etc)."
That was one of the best discussion points we had when I was teaching this in American Lit. I started by asking the kids if we had divisions in our town, and they all said no. But then I starting asking, "Well, what do you call people who drive big trucks with confederate flags on them?" (Rednecks.) What do you call people who live in the mountains.... What do you....Etc. I could actually SEE their eyes opening in astonishment as they realized that their world today is still divided.