To Kill a Mockingbird
London, Arrow, 1997, 309p
I first read To Kill a Mockingbird in my teens, but a few weeks ago, when I saw the 1962 movie, I realised I couldn't remember anything about the book. So, whilst I holidayed in Hamburg this week, I picked up the classic and once again sank deep into the world of Scout and Jem.
Scout and Jem are adventurous and curious children, but always stay within the limitations set by their househelp, Calpurnia, and their father, Atticus Finch. When they start hanging out with a boy called Dill, the children start pushing the boundaries of the rules, and seek out to lure their reclusive and potentially dangerous neighbour, Boo Radley, from his house.
Meanwhile, Atticus is involved in a controversial case in court, defending a black man against the charge of the rape of a white girl from a poor family. All through town, Jem and Scout are subject to comments from classmates and neighbours, and Scout has to work hard to control her feisty temper and keep out of trouble.
The relationship between Atticus and his children is something to be admired. They adore and respect him, despite some people outside the family thinking he lets them run wild and is bringing Scout up to be less than feminine. But Atticus feels safe and comforting; he is a brilliant role model, combining the right amount of intelligence, comedy and love.
There is so much going on in To Kill a Mockingbird that I feel this blog does not give me the space to explore all the themes and storylines. I think my favourite element is Scout's narrative - young and sometimes naive, but always ready to learn and to try. She is inquisitive, always asking questions of her father that even he sometimes struggles to answer, and she loves her older brother even when he is growing into a young man and his hormones start to take over. Her world view is optimistic and vulnerable in equal measure, but through Scout, we see the evil in poverty, racism and domestic abuse, and understand how a little love can go a long way.