Thursday, March 14, 2013

To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird
Harper Lee
1960, 323 pgs
Audiobook (Library)

Summary from Amazon
"When he was nearly thirteen, my brother Jem got his arm badly broken at the elbow.... When enough years had gone by to enable us to look back on them, we sometimes discussed the events leading to his accident. I maintain that the Ewells started it all, but Jem, who was four years my senior, said it started long before that. He said it began the summer Dill came to us, when Dill first gave us the idea of making Boo Radley come out."

Set in the small Southern town of Maycomb, Alabama, during the Depression, To Kill a Mockingbird follows three years in the life of 8-year-old Scout Finch, her brother, Jem, and their father, Atticus--three years punctuated by the arrest and eventual trial of a young black man accused of raping a white woman. Though her story explores big themes, Harper Lee chooses to tell it through the eyes of a child. The result is a tough and tender novel of race, class, justice, and the pain of growing up.

Like the slow-moving occupants of her fictional town, Lee takes her time getting to the heart of her tale; we first meet the Finches the summer before Scout's first year at school. She, her brother, and Dill Harris, a boy who spends the summers with his aunt in Maycomb, while away the hours reenacting scenes from Dracula and plotting ways to get a peek at the town bogeyman, Boo Radley. At first the circumstances surrounding the alleged rape of Mayella Ewell, the daughter of a drunk and violent white farmer, barely penetrate the children's consciousness. Then Atticus is called on to defend the accused, Tom Robinson, and soon Scout and Jem find themselves caught up in events beyond their understanding. During the trial, the town exhibits its ugly side, but Lee offers plenty of counterbalance as well--in the struggle of an elderly woman to overcome her morphine habit before she dies; in the heroism of Atticus Finch, standing up for what he knows is right; and finally in Scout's hard-won understanding that most people are essentially kind "when you really see them." By turns funny, wise, and heartbreaking, To Kill a Mockingbird is one classic that continues to speak to new generations, and deserves to be reread often.

My summary

This was my first attempt at a fiction audiobook.  All my previous audiobooks had been autobiographies and generally humorous ones. 

Sissy Spacek narrates To Kill a Mockingbird beautifully.  She varies the voices and captures the spirit of Scout the main character – a young girl.  To Kill a Mockingbird unfolds slowly, taking a long time to get to the point of the story.  I enjoyed hearing about the children’s lives as they grew up and their obsession with Boo Radley.    Any other Gilmore Girl fan’s out there?  I was constantly agreeing with Lorelai that all towns need as many Boo Radley’s as they can get. 

I also thought it was genius of Harper Lee to tell this story through the eyes of a child, because you hear the racism they are being taught just by watching the actions of those around them, but children also have an instinctive sense of fairness and question things that adults don’t.

I did struggle at times with how slowly it moved.  I could have read it in 4 hours, but instead listened to the audiobook on a road trip.  It took about 11 hours to listen to the whole thing.  Compound the long listening time with the story unfolding slowly and I got a little antsy to finish.
 My Rating
Enjoyability (4 out of 5 stars) (Listening vs reading may have knocked off that star)
Relationships (4 out of 5 stars)
Writing (5 out of 5 stars)
 I’ll remember To Kill a Mockingbird forever.  I also think I’ll reread (rather than listen) at some point in the not too distant future.



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