29 June 2015 2 Comments
Author: Harper Lee
Summary: ‘They don’t do one thing but sing their hearts out for us. That’s why it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.’ Scout and her brother Jem can understand that idea of sin, but in the small American town where they live, evil comes in many shapes and they have to learn to recognize it, and understand how people behave. Their father’s unpopularity when he fights for a Negro in trouble reveals other mockingbirds.
Rating: ★★★☆☆ 3/5
Review: Apparently i had high expectations of this book. I hadn’t even realised i did until i started reading and it just… wasn’t as good as i had assumed it would be. It’s pretty much ~the~ classic, which i guess i, personally, should have been more wary about. I usually instinctively adopt mistrust of overly-popular books (and film and TV and etc), assuming them to never be as good as the masses claim them to be. But To Kill a Mockingbird tricked me somehow. I guess my weak spot for classics blindsided me.
Most simply, i didn’t really like the writing style. It was overly descriptive and hugely specific, mostly noticeably with regards to location and layout of the town. I was too busy trying to figure out where the Radley house was and how and why Scout and Jem need to walk past it that the effect them being so scared of the house should have had on me was lost. I much prefer when descriptions are more vague and i’m allowed to picture it in my own way. I like being made to feel, not forced to picture.
The story meandered and there was pretty much no plot. I liked the characters well enough, and i’ve always said the characters can make or break a book for me. Well, apparently, a lack of a plot can also be a breaking point. Summer, school, summer, school, summer… with nothing to string them together. Nothing to follow, other than Scout’s wandering thoughts. It was only when the trial started, about two-thirds of the way into the book, that things started to get interesting enough for me to really want to keep reading. And really, the trial just made me angry. Angry about how hateful and blind people are. I already know the world is full of injustice, i see it every day all around me. Some people might need that spelled out to them in a work of fiction, but i read fiction as an escape, not to remind me of the world i’m trying to escape from.
And the characters. I liked them, mostly, but they seemed very divided into “good” and “bad” with only very few coming near to blurring the lines between the two. I also found Scout herself to uncharacteristicly miss the point sometimes. The book is told from Scout’s point of view, and she spans the ages of six to eight, but it’s established on the first page, and referenced throughout the book, that she is writing this later in life; she’s older and has more perspective. And i think the distinction became blurred on that. Sometimes she offered insight, either in the childish way she would have understood it at the time, or in hindsight. But there were several occasions where it seemed Scout just didn’t get what was going on, though it wasn’t a stretch to think she would, based on other times she’d been so astute. These moments left me with something akin to a lack of respect for her. The character i liked most, i think, was Jem, because he seemed to grow and develop over the course of the book, where all the other characters, though slotted perfectly into their assigned spots, were very two-dimensional and flat. They played a role, rather than a full character.
This review is heavily on the negative side, but i did enjoy the book. I looked forward to picking it up to read. It just wasn’t as good as i’d hoped. And it is definitely one of those books that i see as having so much potential, so much good, but that could just so easily be so much better.
This is the tenth book i’ve read from my Classics Club list.
This knocks one square off my Bookish Bingo: Pulitzer Prize winner.