Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Group Review: To Kill A Mockingbird

 Summary:  The unforgettable novel of a childhood in a sleepy Southern town and the crisis of conscience that rocked it, To Kill A Mockingbird became both an instant bestseller and a critical success when it was first published in 1960. It went on to win the Pulitzer Prize in 1961 and was later made into an Academy Award-winning film, also a classic. Compassionate, dramatic, and deeply moving, To Kill A Mockingbird takes readers to the roots of human behavior - to innocence and experience, kindness and cruelty, love and hatred, humor and pathos. Now with over 18 million copies in print and translated into forty languages, this regional story by a young Alabama woman claims universal appeal. Harper Lee always considered her book to be a simple love story. Today it is regarded as a masterpiece of American literature.  ~goodreads.com

Alice's Review:  When Julie suggested this novel, I was apprehensively curious.  I hadn’t read it.  I know many people were required to read ToKill A Mockingbird in either grammar or high school.  I wasn’t one of them.  I didn’t know anything about it.  I thought Harper Lee was a man.  Yes, I was clueless.

What strikes me the most about this novel is that I know every time I read it (and I will read it again), I will get something else from it.  This time I was moved by the flow of the story, by the courage it took Ms. Lee to write and publish it at one of the darkest times in US history.  I was moved by the inspiration she weaved into the pages, for her wisdom in human emotions and how truthfully she conveys them in black and white (no pun intended).  This novel is a gift to readers. 

Ms. Lee brings together a cast of character that reflects the time with stark honesty.  I loved Scout, she was full of moxie, spirit and truth.  Told from her point of view, she made me laugh out loud at times.  I loved Jem.  It was a joy and heartbreak watching him mature right before my eyes.  Atticus has such strength and peace.  He did what was right, what was fair.  He believed in justice and loved his children more than anything.  Miss Maudie was straight up ballsy.  She had class and was a force to be reckoned with.

This novel is classic, it’s perfect.  It’s the kind of novel that everyone must read.  I’m ashamed it took me this long to read it and I’m happy Julie choose this novel. 

The final thing I will take away from To Kill A Mockingbird is what Atticus says about Mrs. Dubose. 

“I wanted you to see what real courage is….It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin but you begin anyway and you see it through no matter what.  You rarely win, but sometimes you do.” 

This novel is a winner.

Final Take: 5/5

Jenn's Review:  This was not one of my favorite reads in school.  I thought it was an horribly ugly topic and I didn't like reading about it.  Truthfully, I still don't like reading it, but I think that the 20 or so year age difference of this reader gives me a little better perspective on things. Honestly, I think half of the books we read in school we don't fully grasp the depth of for years to come, but that's another matter entirely.  At least it gets kids thinking, right?

This time through I saw things more from Atticus' point of view than Scout's.  Atticus was a good and slightly unconventional father, but I still find it strange that he never remarried.  I know it's touched on in the book and he certainly had help, but as a parent of that generation, he was definitely unique.  It struck me that things I found so significant as a teen are different than the ones that hit home for me now. For example Scout standing up to the mob made my parental heart leap out of my chest... though I still found Scout's schooling just as frustrating as I did as a teen.

This book is full of messages with lots of little anecdotes along the way.  While I'm glad I read it and re-read it, I'm also glad to leave it behind.  I've always felt the story encompassed a little too much, but then again, Harper Lee does it so well.  Next time I revisit this, if I revisit it, it will be with Gregory Peck

Final Take: 4.5/5

Julie's Review: Seriously, what can you say about this book that probably already hasn't been said, except for how it affected you personally. There is a reason To Kill a Mockingbird is a classic. Simply put, it holds up. While some of the racism and thinking of a small southern town has perhaps gotten better, the fact of the matter is that there are some people who have small town thinking.

I think one thing that stood out for me is that the storyline about Boo Radley and Tom are different. Most people of course remember Atticus defending Tom and confuse him with Boo. As the book goes on it's very clear they are two different men.

I loved Scout. I loved Atticus for letting her be herself and not trying to force her into conforming to what society thought a good should be and be doing. I loved Jem for his sensitive and thoughtful nature. I loved that I learned how Atticus was ahead of his time in his way of thinking. I love how Attitcus made Jem read to Mrs. Dubose near the end of her life to make him understand that everyone has their troubles and things to overcome. I loved how three young kids sat up in the balcony with the black residents during the trial.

As an adult, I found the parts about the kids making up stories about Boo funny. I mean don't we all make up stories about people we don't know anything about? Maybe in particular our neighbors. It is the unknown that makes us curious as children and carries over into adulthood.

The supporting cast of characters help round out how small Maycomb really is in the novel. Sure, these times were a lot simpler in some aspects but then I see the way people thought back then and I'm not sure they were better. Even Aunt Alexadra is simple minded in her way of thinking. She's so concerned about the family's name and not the fact that Atticus is standing up for what is right.

While obviously the overall tone and message of the book is serious, there are some parts that are genuinely funny and help to perhaps alleviate the subject matter if only for a page or two. The subject matter isn't one that is easy to read but it's not like it doesn't serve a purpose. Most things that are unpleasant often teach us something about ourselves.

I wonder how many people today would be willing to put themselves out there for another human being even though they will be vilified? It takes a very unique person to do that and to not let it change their mind about mankind.

This novel is being handed to my best friend's 12 year old son to read. I think as he enters 7th grade, it is the perfect read for him. I can't wait for my children to get old enough so we can read this book together.

If you haven't read To Kill a Mockingbird, or if it's been a long time, I can't recommend it enough for you to experience.

Final Take: 5/5



Anonymous ,  July 7, 2012 at 9:36 PM  

Excellent post! It was fun reading three different thoughts on sucha classic. I love the quote that Alice included.
I read this for the first time in my late 20's and now at 40 it's time for a reread. The movie is also an excellent way to experience it all again.
One of my all-time faves.

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