Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird review

Lockdown has turned a lot of us into bookworms (if we weren’t already!) and so at the BMI, we’re creating a space for our members to write about their reading experiences in lockdown. Here’s To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, reviewed by Samina Ansari, the BMI’s Honorary Librarian and Junior Vice President.

I studied To Kill A Mockingbird for O-level English and hated it. Everyone else loved it, but I preferred Far From The Madding Crowd by Hardy. I didn’t understand the flow of Mockingbird, didn’t get the phrasings, just didn’t like it. I then re-read it two years later and loved it. It has been in my Top 10 ever since, and at one point I read it once a year. Recently, a friend who is not a great reader said that during lockdown, she had read a ‘list of ten books you should read before you die’, and Mockingbird was on it. I realised that I hadn’t read it for a few years, sent her a copy and we read it at the same time.

Every time I read it, it presents itself to me from a different character’s perspective. The voices are so realistic and raw, and this time I read it from Scout’s point of view. She is the protagonist, so I suppose that’s how Harper intended the story to be read. She reminds me so much of myself as a child; dirty-kneed, up trees, and guided by well-meaning grown-ups who don’t always comprehend the gravity of a child’s viewpoint. She travels through the narrative playing with her sibling and friend, wondering at the enormity and beauty of the world while stamping her foot at the injustice and frustration of society, and living in a world half of her own imagining. I relate to the questions that she never has answered, the listening halfway up staircases, and yet understanding and seeing all.

The book has two narrative threads, and they weave and interlink to such a point that when one is concluded, there are an awful lot of pages left to the novel, and I realise that there is another thread still to be tied. I always forget it, every time, and it is always an extra treat at the end.

I would recommend this book to anyone, truly anyone. And I would urge anyone who has already read it to re-read it, as it’s a different experience each time. Whether that is because we change, our experiences change or the world around us changes is a point for much discussion, especially in our library!

I always think it’s an interesting side point that Truman Capote, who grew up next door to Harper Lee, was always trying to write the perfect American novel. At the time of Mockingbird’s publication and transformation into a movie, he was writing In Cold Blood. In my opinion, he only had to look over the garden fence to see the perfect American novel had already been completed.

BMI members: To contribute your own book review/recommendation, please send 300-600 words to our Enquiries email address (enquiries-at-bmi.co.uk, but replace “-at-” with the @ sign)!

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